SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 10  / Nelsons

DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH
Under Stalin´s Shadow

Symphony No. 10
Passacaglia from
»Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk«
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Andris Nelsons
Int. Release 31 Jul. 2015
1 CD / Download
0289 479 5059 2
“Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow” has won a Grammy Award for best orchestral performance


Track List

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975)
Lady Macbeth Of The Mtsensk District, Op.29

Act 2

Symphony No.10 in E Minor, Op.93

Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons

Total Playing Time 1:04:50

. . . [Shostakovich]: a searing reading of the Passacaglia, and a sepulchral account of the symphony . . . Nelsons made every measure count, punctuating the composer's arc with extreme dynamic contrasts . . . [Shostakovich / Passacaglia]: I have never heard it used as a concert opener and it made a sensational one, with Nelsons and the enormous ensemble capturing the scene's primal grimace . . . Nelsons and his crew offered a brilliantly detailed Mahler Sixth Symphony . . . [in the touching Andante, Nelsons] patiently gave the players space to reveal Mahler's riches . . . Coupled with the hardworking orchestra, Nelsons indicated decisively that Boston's magnificent instrument is embarking on a bold and tingling new era.

[Shostakovich / Symphony no. 10]: The music's gripping drama is revealed through the clarity of each detail and its placement at the service of narrative expression. Every moment speaks.

Powerful and beautifully crafted, this recording -- the first from the relationship between DG and the Boston Symphony under Nelsons -- is a hugely impressive sign of just what this ensemble/maestro partnership may go on to achieve. Nelsons's performance is mighty, marked by a wonderful nose for atmosphere . . . The inexorability of this beautifully proportioned, arch-like first movement is judged to perfection . . . what makes Nelsons so lethally impressive here is the precision with which he addresses every accent, every ferocious "sforzando" . . . every thematic motif, every cross-reference and transformation is clearly delineated . . . Be in no doubt that this is one of the finest performances that I have ever heard of this great piece . . . and to say that it augurs well for Nelsons's future with the Boston Symphony is an understatement and then some. This was a shrewd appointment.

. . . [the Passacaglia from "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk"] certainly packs a punch. Dynamics are fearsome and the abundant percussion is very well caught. It's a big, broad performance, drenched in drama and executed with a single-mindedness that's frankly terrifying . . . [Shostakovich 10, first movement]: The lower strings perform a slow, winding lament that, in Nelsons' hands, is as gaunt and uncompromising as any I've heard. The first tutti, hard won, is rimed with exhaustion and despair. Goodness, the BSO play with a unanimity and depth of feeling that's simply breathtaking. Nelsons [doesn't force the pace, and that allows the music ample breath and space in which to speak] . . . Such an approach really pays off in the symphony's craggy perorations, which seem all the more powerful for evolving so naturally . . . The martial "Allegro" is sharply drawn, and the march is suitably hellish. Nelsons maintains an ideal pace throughout, and rhythms are razor sharp; as for the heroic side-drummer he deserves a mention in despatches . . . Cogent performances . . . a promising start to the series.

. . . although this first movement is pretty stark, under Nelsons it is also rather enjoyable. He doesn't exactly soften the music's impact with slower speeds; rather, he uses a flexible tempo to emphasize various points in the score, so we get not just an unpleasantly severe landscape but a sad, pensive one as well . . . It's in the big closing movement we encounter an exultation, possibly a private victory, albeit a dark victory, and it's here that Nelsons seems at his best. He begins the music as quietly, peacefully, as one would want, then gradually adds the good cheer, building optimism as he proceeds. Finally, the piece culminates in the triumphant outbursts from timpani and orchestra we expect . . . [Passacaglia from "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk"]: Nelson's interpretation of the music makes it as mysterious and brooding as any you'll find . . . it's a fine, atmospheric reading, with delicate gradations of color.

Powerful and beautifully crafted . . . a hugely impressive sign of just what this ensemble/maestro partnership may go on to achieve.

The performance is electric, and the recorded sound among the finest I've ever heard on disk. The rich sounds of the BSO are captured with resounding resonance and impact -- an audiophile's show-piece indeed. The gloomy Passacaglia from Shostakovich's powerful score for "Lady Macbeth of Misensk" makes an appropriate opener.

Nelsons's performance is mighty, marked by a wonderful nose for atmosphere and a way of making space for the succession of desolate wind solos . . . The inexorability of this beautifully proportioned, arch-like first movement is judged to perfection . . . what makes Nelsons so lethally impressive here is the precision with which he addresses every accent, every ferocious "sforzando". He is the most rhythmic of conductors and the trumpet-topped brass here are possessed of a unanimity that makes them absolutely implacable . . . every thematic motif, every cross reference and transformation is clearly delineated. Not in any sense forensic, as in sterile, just startlingly clear . . . [in the whirlwind "scherzo"] again it's the rhythmic precision, the snap of the syncopations and absolute security in the playing of them that takes the breath away . . . the plaintive oboe solo which first scents a new dawn at the start of the finale is especially poignant. Be in no doubt that this is one of the finest performances that I have ever heard of this great piece (it must surely bid fair for 'best in catalogue') and to say that it augurs well for Nelsons's future with the Boston Symphony is an understatement and then some.

. . . conductor and orchestra make an impressive Team . . . Well played and recorded, it offers a serious statement of intent.

. . . [this new release] commands attention through Nelsons's fusion of clear definition and potent atmosphere and through the sheer intensity and brilliance of the orchestral playing . . . Nelsons triumphs overwhelmingly, crafting the long first movement with a mix of probing strength and disquiet, and elsewhere combining whiplash rhythmic incisiveness with breadth of phrasing and a telling spectrum of dynamics. With the apocalyptic tragedy of the "Lady Macbeth" passacaglia, the cumulative effect of this disc is both profoundly moving and electrifying.

Never sour or sarcastic, but hardly soft or sunny, either, this is Shostakovich for the long run. The composer could not be in better hands.

. . . [a] shattering disc . . . [Passacaglia]: This is terrifying, visceral music, its violence and raw dissonance anticipating the language of Shostakovich's Symphony No.4, shelved in the aftermath of Stalin's assault. The Boston Symphony Orchestra's . . . playing here is weighty, raw and uncompromising. DG's close balance is exactly what this music needs. Lower strings, bassoons and bass clarinet are startling, and they're equally good in the post-war 10th Symphony. The lugubrious opening unfolds with stoic inevitability, the slow clarinet melody heartbreaking. It gets better still, with a harrowing central climax and a desolate piccolo duet at the close. Nelsons gets the violent anger too, and the ensuing Allegro's demonic energy throws up shockwaves. But it's the moments of repose which haunt -- the wonderfully calm music after the Allegretto's enigmatic horn call is breathtaking. As is the slow introduction to the last movement, its woodwind solos an evocative sequence of lonely voices. And if there's a more emotionally charged account of the movement's bustling Allegro, I've not heard it; Shostakovich, in Nelsons' words, telling Stalin "You are dead but I am still alive! I am still here!" This is exceptional stuff, and DG were right to include the audience applause.

. . . electrifyingly played . . .

A stirring performance of the 10th Symphony . . . [a] superb disc . . . Nelsons and the Boston Symphony create a triumphant performance and sound on this disc. While there are many options in choosing other interpretations of the 10th, this will certainly be a disc that is revered . . . From a sonic perspective, this disc shows there is plenty of life in the CD format. The strings are smooth, the low end is solid. The soundstage is vivid, and I had the impression of listening live in Boston's Symphony Hall. I almost was, as the recording was done with an audience. I haven't heard an orchestral CD sound this good in a long time. Kudos to the DGG recording team . . . Highly recommended. I think this is a must have recording!

. . . [a performance of Shostakovich 10] that is as tense as it is vibrant. The first movement, full of sinewy, characterful woodwind solos, is kept at a slow burn. The second is taut and exciting, bad cop to the good cop of the third movement, which early on has an almost Nutcracker-esque spring in its step. Nelsons chooses to allow some genuine triumph into the finale -- he says it might be Shostakovich dancing on Stalin's grave -- but its perkiness is still razor sharp. The orchestra has just extended Nelsons's contract, and this is why.

. . . [in Shostakovich's first movement there is] both good solo playing and good group playing . . . Nelsons does something extremely important in this movement: sustain tension. The second movement should sound like cut glass. It has to be skillfully and ruthlessly carved. Here, it pretty much is. The third movement is duly clear, graceful, and grand . . . [the finale] movement is clean and exciting. In short, this is a first-rate performance of a first-rate symphony from a conductor who understands the music, and can convey his understanding to an orchestra . . .

. . . .["Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk"]: It is powerful and disturbing music, and Nelsons and his orchestra raise the roof with it . . . The chemistry between Andris Nelsons and the BSO is palpable in Shostakovich's Tenth . . . One of the things that makes it special is the sound of Symphony Hall in Boston, one of the best concert venues in the world. For recordings, it also is nearly ideal . . . [the Boston's Symphony Hall] not only has warmth, presence, and generous reverberation time, but also handles a vast dynamic range with ease. Loud percussion is thrilling on this new recording, but so are the quiet moments. A good example is the end of the slow movement. Beneath the eerie muted violin solo, listen to the soft notes of the timpani, bass drum, and tam-tam. This is an extraordinary moment in the symphony; I have never heard it so beautifully rendered on a recording. Kudos to conductor, orchestra, DG engineers, and to Symphony Hall.

This, perhaps the greatest of Shostakovich's works, is given a performance that ranks with the very best -- a superb achievement. The Boston Symphony Orchestra is on wonderful form. I do hope that Nelsons and the BSO bring us more Shostakovich.

. . . [Nelsons achieves] a beautifully detailed, powerfully delineated and meticulously shaped performance . . . If this impressive album is any indication, Nelsons [and the Boston Symphony] . . . have a long and fruitful partnership ahead of them. It might even legitimately become the stuff of legend.

. . . the central emphasis of the performance preserved on this disc is unmistakably on faithfully executing the demands of the score . . . Opening with the Passacaglia that serves as an evocative interlude in Act Two of Shostakovich's opera "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District", Nelsons and the BSO players exhibit an unshakable concentration on uncovering the dramatic gestures within the music . . . The impact of the boldness of Shostakovich's orchestrations is splendidly enhanced by the BSO's playing . . . The sprawling Moderato movement of the Tenth Symphony revels in the relative freedom that Shostakovich surely felt for the first time in his creative life in the wake of Stalin's death, and Nelsons's handle on the music never loosens in the twenty-six minutes of the movement's course. The string playing is superb throughout the performance, the musicians' intonation unfailingly secure, and the balances among both individual instruments and sections of the orchestra are continually marvelous. Nelsons draws sharp contrasts between the monumental first movement and the subsequent, smaller-scaled Allegro and Allegretto movements. In the second and third movements, the conductor's innate comprehension of Shostakovich's singular thematic development is of vital importance, and his rapport with the BSO musicians engenders profound but unexaggerated expressivity . . . this recording is special. In it, the illumination provided by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons seems to fully free Shostakovich's musical spirit from Stalin's shadow.

[Symphony no. 10]: Nelsons triumphs overwhelmingly, crafting the long first movement with a mix of probing strength and disquiet, and elsewhere combining whiplash rhythmic incisiveness with breadth of phrasing and a telling spectrum of dynamics. With the apocalyptic tragedy of the Lady Macbeth passacaglia, the cumulative effect of this disc is both profoundly moving and electrifying.

. . . [Andris Nelsons'] unhurried, meticulously detailed reading of the symphony suggests emotions passed through a prism of hindsight . . . Playing is exceptional and the sound good . . .

. . . incredible tones of strings and woodwind principals. . . the crucial climaxes have punch as well as the right pulling out or back to articulate the centres of gravity . . . [Nelsons has] taken charge of America's most cultured orchestra and, given recording of unparalleled naturalness, height and depth, it sounds absolutely wonderful . . . [the disc starts with] the "Passacaglia from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk", and Nelsons connects its dark and superbly present bass lines with the opening of the Symphony. The pacing, the atmosphere, the expressive space for stricken solos and the sheer electric charge of the gallops are up there with the best . . . [this joins] the top ranks of recent Shostakovich . . . and sonically it's peerless.

Stunning accounts of searing orchestral works.

Andris Nelsons delivers a stunning performance of Shostakovich's before-and-after-Stalin Tenth. Rhythm is his lethal weapon, precision his strength. Brooding, tense, febrile, thrilling.

[Symphony no. 10]: The Boston Symphony Orchestra sounds absolutely magnificent. They drench the work in stark colors . . . The typically elegant woodwinds shed their French sheen for a Slavic tartness that suits this music to a tee . . . this music clearly gets under the conductor's skin. Nothing is droopy, and the searing intensity of the Boston Symphony is totally welcome.

. . . [an] exceptional performance . . . Great conducting, glorious playing and warm and detailed recorded sound.

Nelsons' live recording of the fathomless Shostakovich Tenth Symphony with his Boston Symphony (DG), coupled with a scorching Passacaglia from the composer's opera "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk", demonstrated why Nelsons is another "future" guy whose future is now.

. . . sensational . . . The BSO plays with the kind of fire and intensity we don't expect from an orchestra usually categorized as cool and elegant. The technical prowess in this performance has no recent equal . . . thanks to the BSO's superlative playing and DG's rich, lifelike sound, sumptuousness is present in this new recording, too . . . Nelsons's first movement is totally engrossing, absent the black shadows found in Soviet-era recordings . . . [his treatment of the scherzo movement] is thrilling, not because he bares its fangs but from sheer orchestral virtuosity -- the wow factor is unmistakable . . . The finale is more subdued, but thanks to brilliant solo work from the BSO's principal woodwinds, the feeling is lyrical and almost upbeat . . . [what stays in the mind is] Nelsons's grasp of the score and his passion conducting it . . . let's cheer such a triumphant beginning to a new era.

. . . this Tenth ranks among the best . . . [the BSO] is back to being the fabulous ensemble it was in the 1950s and '60s . . . The long, brooding opening movement lets the plush Boston strings shine, and as usual this hall lets the bass resonate wonderfully. The finale's manic glee is also excellently conveyed. Nelsons is a young talent to watch, and I eagerly await the other installments of this project.

[Passacaglia from "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk"]: Nelsons' gut-wrenching opening draws terrific power from his players which soon gives way to writing of stark beauty yet with an ominous undercurrent . . . [Symphony no. 10]: In the desolate, bitter landscapes of the vast opening movement which occupies almost half the length of the whole work Nelsons directs with consummate skill allowing the music to build impressively. I admire the way Nelsons generates an unsettling anxious undertow that borders on the chilling . . . [2nd movement]: I have to single out the magnificent playing of the Boston brass section for special praise. Maintaining steady concentration, Nelsons' reading is compellingly incisive in the third movement "Allegretto" at times menacing and at times reflective . . . In the closing movement "Andante -- Allegro" Nelsons communicates a strong sense of optimism, renewal after a severe winter, whilst maintaining the relentless momentum towards the awesome conclusion. Recorded live in Symphony Hall, Boston the engineering team has achieved terrific sound quality, clear and well balanced; keeping all the climaxes within the sound-picture . . . The present recording from Nelsons and the Boston Symphony is as excellent as I have heard and can stand alongside the best.

For musical integrity, imagination and orchestral playing of breathtaking virtuosity, Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra set the modern-day benchmark . . . Deutsche Grammophon's engineers provide suitably epic sound quality . . . Nelsons is faultless in his pacing of the massive first movement . . . while the Finale's coda is truly celebratory . . . Nelsons finds moments of hushed tranquility in the many soft string passages. Even so, the symphony's mood of underlying menace is never compromised. The inclusion of the ecstatic audience applause which greets the symphony's conclusion adds to the sense of a great concert hall occasion . . . it is difficult to imagine a more all-encompassing account than this.

Prefaced by a devastatingly intense rendering of the hair-raising Act 2 Passacaglia from "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District", Nelsons's conception of the mighty Tenth Symphony is hugely compelling in its iron control, intrepid character, scrupulous preparation, rhythmic acuity and shrewd observation . . . his rapt identification with this music and mastery of the bigger scheme are never in doubt . . . and what a powerfully immersive sense of mystery and wonder those exemplary Boston strings distill . . . Brace yourselves next for the terrifying Scherzo, which shoots off like a rocket and can boast some astonishingly articulate orchestral playing to boot. Nelsons also plots an uncommonly adroit course through the ensuing, piercingly autobiographical Allegretto . . . The finale, too, is marvellous, its slumberingly intense prologue leading to a main Allegro which is simply thrilling in its edge-of-seat thrust and giddily triumphant impact. So, a wholly absorbing Shostakovich Tenth worthy to stand alongside such legendary predecessors on the Yellow Label as the 1955 Ancerl and 1966 Karajan.

Das Boston Symphony Orchestra, von jeher weit oben an der Spitze der "Big Five" rangierend, lässt sich auf Schliff und Differentialdiagnostik seines neuen Chefs freudig ein. Man hört ein analytisch weit aufgefächertes, sehr europäisch klingendes Spitzenorchester. Eine Traumlösung, keine Frage.

. . . ein echter Kracher, im besten Sinne des Wortes . . . Nelsons erliegt nicht der Verführung, die reichlich vorhandenen PS-Reserven des BSO bei jeder Gelegenheit auszutesten. Wo er die Wahl zwischen Druck und Klarheit hätte, entscheidet er sich klug für Transparenz und passgenaue Tempi. Und die Bostoner klingen weniger glattpoliert und oberflächenfixiert als andere US-Orchester. Beeindruckend: Diese Meisterleistung ist keine Studio-Aufnahme, sondern ein Mitschnitt aus der Boston Symphony Hall, deren Akustik selbst bei der Passacaglia aus "Lady Macbeth" nicht ins Wanken gerät.

. . . [Nelsons] raubt einem den Atem . . . Bei diesem Schostakowitsch stimmt alles, nicht nur die Präzision, sondern auch der Enthusiasmus. Da trübt nicht einmal das düstere CD-Motto "Unter Stalins Schatten" den glänzenden Eindruck . . . [1. Satz]: Alle Details bekommen Gewicht, mit größter Klarheit leuchtet Nelsons die Themen aus, baut wie mit kreiselndem Sog die Spannung auf, die sich in der Mitte des Satzes entlädt . . . Danach sinkt langsam wieder die Nacht der schleichenden Melancholie herab. Das kann man schon als mental-klangliches Porträt des Komponisten sehen, zumindest wenn man Andris Nelsons' schlüssiger Dramaturgie folgt. Das Boston Symphony Orchestra, in den USA als eines der "großen fünf" unter den Klangkörpern gefeiert, kann diese Präzision mit jener scheinbaren Leichtigkeit und Eleganz aufbieten, wie Andris Nelsons sie sich wünscht.

Beide Aspekte, die des trauernden, in sich gekehrten Sinnierens wie des Widerständigen, Auftrumpfenden und als dritte Komponente des beißend Ironischen verwirklicht Nelsons mit seinem Orchester imponierend dicht. Und Nelsons zeigt, mit welcher Klangsinnlichkeit Schostakowitsch instrumentierte.

. . . [Shostakovich 10]: [spätestens im zweiten Satz] wird spürbar, dass das exzellente Boston Symphony Orchestra durch eine eigene Schostakowitsch-Tradition mit dessen Idiom bestens vertraut ist. Die Holzbläser sind ein Ereignis. Und Andris Nelsons, im sowjetischen Lettland aufgewachsen und durch die russische Dirigentenschule geprägt, legt eine mitreißende Schostakowitsch-Affinität an den Tag . . . Die amerikanische Brillanz des Orchesters, eines der "Big Five" in den USA, korrespondiert mit dem fantastischen Sound dieser CD -- ein Meisterstück der Klangtechnik . . . Die stimmige Interpretation von Nelsons vereint großen Atem mit rhythmischer Energie, gespenstische Leere mit bohrender Intensität. Ein vielversprechender Auftakt zu einer neuen Schostakowitsch-Gesamtaufnahme.

. . . In großer Bedächtigkeit, mit großem Bedacht, was die Tempi betrifft (fast 26 Minuten für den ersten Satz!), entfalten Nelsons und sein Orchester ein beklemmendes und doch lichtes, sinnlich-sanguinisches Panorama der späten Stalin-Ära bis zum Tod des Diktators im März 1953 . . . Bostons Symphoniker spielen hinreißend, nie präpotent an den solistischen Stellen, immer idiomatisch im Timbre und dabei von einer klanglichen Tiefenschärfe, die amerikanisch, europäisch und russisch zugleich anmutet, als hätte das Orchester seit seiner Gründung 1881 sämtliche Zeitläufte inhaliert, hüben wie drüben. Und Nelsons gelingt es, was nach eigenem Bekunden Teil seiner Strategie ist, diesen hoch intellektuellen Klangkörper . . . so zu erschüttern, ja positiv zu verunsichern, dass sich viele Fragen neu stellen. Wer sind wir als Superprofis? Und wer ist Dmitri Schostakowitsch, was sagt er uns heute und in Zukunft, da allüberall so viel Krise herrscht wie noch nie? Rückt er uns näher, ferner?

. . . wie Nelsons und sein Spitzenensemble sowohl den melancholisch bis desillusionierten
Tonfall dieser kompositorischen Auseinandersetzung mit Stalin und den Komponisten-Initialen D-(E)S-C-H treffen als auch die Passagen eines harten, kalten Triumphes, das besitzt schon ungeheuerliche musikalische Dringlichkeit . . . [das Orchesterzwischenspiel aus dem zweiten Akt der "Lady Macbeth von Mzensk" ist] nicht minder aufwühlend.

La rutilance orchestrale est au rendez-vous de cette captation miraculeuse. L'orchestre fait feu de tout bois pour répondre aux sollicitations du chef. Du velours des cordes à la précision des cuivres, on ne sait qu'admirer dans cette phalange de virtuoses. Certains solos, en particuliers les bois, sont d'une musicalité et d'une profondeur exceptionnelles . . . La prise de son est également une merveille de réalisme dans sa restitution de l'amplitude dynamique et de la richesse des timbres de l'orchestre étasunien.

. . . quand avons-nous entendu, ces quarante dernières années, la "Symphonie no. 10" par un orchestre aussi prodigieux à tous égards (timbres, souffle, rythmes, caractères)? . . . le Boston Symphony nous émerveille dans la plus accomplie des symphonies purement instrumentales de Chostakovitch . . . Aucun arrière-plan postromantique dans l'immense "Moderato" initial, mais un incomparable foisonnement de formes, de variantes toujours neuves à partir d'un matériau musical minime . . . Le jeune chef letton choisit non sans audace des tempos plus larges . . . Soutenue par la luxuriance des timbres et absolument maîtrisée, sa lecture éclaire l'introspection tragique du premier mouvement avec la même acuité que la mélancolie nostalgique, les douloureuses interrogations du troisième . . . Le tourbillonnant scherzo surprend par ses angles arrondis, et la course folle de l'Allegro conclusif se déroule ici avec une gaieté aussi désespérée qu'ambigue . . . [Nelsons se rapproche davantage de la conception tout aussi intériorisée mais plus sensuelle] aux frémissements impalpables . . . Dans un tel contexte, la munificence quasi expressionniste conférée à la "Passacaglia" de l'opéra "Lady Macbeth", placée en exergue, n'est pas un contresens.