Gianandrea Noseda / London Symphony Orchestra

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 4

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Shostakovich's Symphony No. 4 in C minor, Op. 43, was composed in 1936, just as the composer was getting in trouble with the Communist Party for the first time. He withdrew the work before its premiere, which probably saved him from even worse trouble. By the composer's own testimony, it was an ambitious work, one that sought to strike out in new directions. In places, there is the acid, satirical tone of the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (the work that did, in fact, land the composer in hot water), but there's much more: the Symphony No. 4 is a sprawling work that encompasses frenzied energy, triumph, and despair. In the words of conductor Gianandrea Noseda, it is "noble, trivial, vulgar, tender, grotesque." In its scope and sheer length, it is inspired by Mahler, although its use of sonata form it is pure Shostakovich. Noseda and the London Symphony Orchestra embrace the Mahler aspects, leaning into the deepening mood of despair in the finale (did any other composer anticipate so well what was to come?) and taking the fugue in the middle of the first movement at a truly careening, demonic clip where the LSO can't completely keep up. The sprawling outer movements don't completely hold together, but this is perhaps a function of the material, and the essential nature of the work comes through in a consistently exciting recording.

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