Vasily Petrenko / Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 4

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The Symphony No. 4 in C minor is increasingly regarded as one of Dmitry Shostakovich's most important symphonies, due to its directness and power, as well as to its significance in the composer's career. Withdrawn in 1936 and not performed until 1961, the symphony would have been publicly derided for its abrasive dissonances and pessimistic outlook, and Soviet critics would have condemned it for "formalism." Yet today it is admired as an authentic reflection of Shostakovich's public and private struggles, and its uncertain moods and sardonic tone seem truer to his mature style than either the Fifth or Seventh symphonies do. This recording by Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is bracing and exciting, and the ferocity of the performance fully conveys the piece's provocative nature. Highpoints are the lightning-fast fugue in the first movement, which is one of the most thrilling passages in all of Shostakovich's music, and the overwhelming Finale, which reveals the influence of Gustav Mahler in its opening funeral march and other parodistic passages. Naxos' recording is clear and resonant, but some adjustments with the volume may be required because of the wide dynamic range.

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