For some reason, I like to return time and time again to certain composers and their works. I will obsessively listen to recordings and find new ones adding multiple versions to my iTunes library. As is often the case, the composer might have been one that influenced me during my early years of composition. In returning to their works, maybe years later, I am a different ear. I am a different person and experience it anew.
Shostakovich is very dear to me, yet very time consuming and exhausting. His work is very heavy and delicately complex. I was obsessed with him during the early part of my bachelor's but soon began to branch out to more "kind" waters in the years following. I have grown into his symphonies, memorizing every single beat, and every single recording I own. New ones have recently walked into my library causing a "do-over" effect. It is essentially a rediscovery of his works, through new interpretations. I like to find that those recordings I held a grudge with are actually rare gems.
Yakov Kreizberg's 2006 recording of Shostakovich's 5th Symphony with the Russian National Orchestra started me back on the "Shosty-drug." It is paired (as always) with the 9th Symphony and is presented in SACD format (both Stereo and Multi-Channel). The reviews that I read praised the quality of the SACD technique as well as the orchestra's playing. The interpretation was a little vague in the last movement, but I found it refreshing. It was funny to note that ALL of the reviews complained about the epic tam-tam stroke that seemed to be missing from the recording. The score indicates "fff" for the tam-tam, however, in this particular recording you barely hear a shimmer of its overtones. That percussive whack is so famous (as well infamous) in performance that I find it hard to believe that Kreizberg let the poor chap get away with such weakness. The CD was recorded in a studio in Moscow, which is more like a banquet hall. This lends a tremendous amount of space to the sound as well as a contradictory intimacy. The effects of which need to be experienced to believe.
This led me further into one of his most famous symphonies. I acquired a used copy of Semyon Bychkov and the Berliner Philharmoniker's 1986 performance of the same symphony. May I just say that this one has blown my old favorites out of the water. The energy is so intense that I needed a moment alone after the first listen. The strings are as powerful as they ever were with Karajan. However, the brass and percussion were allowed to become raw walls of terrorizing sound; something Karajan would never let them get away with. Bychkov adds, at times, blossoming crescendos in brass and string lines that mimic that of the percussion. The pain and tragedy is juxtaposed against the terror and desperation better than any recording I have heard to date.
Bernstein's 1959 recording with NY Philharmonic was the chosen standard for energetic performance. Even with NY's problems (which are still there) it was a great version to have. Here with Berlin's impeccable performance standards I can rediscover this magnificent 20th century symphonic offering. You would be missing out greatly if this recording remains looked over.
Recordings mentioned & suggested:
Symphony No. 5 in D major, Op. 47
1. Yakov Kreizberg w/ Russian National Orchestra (2006)
Pentatone Classics - Hybrid Multichannel SACH (approx. $20 US)
2. Semyon Bychkov w/ Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (1986)
Philips Masterworks Label - ($17 US)
3. Leonard Bernstein w/ New York Philharmonic Orchestra (make sure! 1959, the other 1973 is horrible) Sony Classics Label - Bernstein Century Series ($10 US)
4. Christoph Eschenbach w/The Philadelphia Orchestra (2006, LIVE)
Ondine Hybrid SACD - ($30 US)