Vasily Petrenko

Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3 'The First of May'

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Even though Dmitry Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1 in F minor was an academic exercise from his teens, and the Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, ("The First of May"), a reflection of the avant-garde experimentation of the early Soviet period, these youthful works reveal salient characteristics of his personality that repeatedly surfaced in the later symphonies and should be considered as fully a part of the cycle. Shostakovich's expressions range from sardonic and brooding moods in the First to the energetic and violent activity of the Third, and these qualities are accurately conveyed in Vasily Petrenko's performances with the Royal Liverpool Orchestra, with the ensemble's choir included in the triumphal finale of the Third. The recordings have a wide audio range, so the extreme dynamics of Shostakovich's music can be heard with minimal adjustment of the volume. That said, much of the music is extremely quiet and eerily thin in texture, so attentive listening is required. But the fortissimos are everything they should be, and Petrenko elicits full sonorities from the orchestra. Naxos provides fine reproduction, so even in the softest passages, everything is clean and focused with natural resonance. Purists may only want their Shostakovich played by a Russian orchestra, but this is a perfectly admirable album that most listeners will appreciate.

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