Gunther Herbig

Schostakovich: Symphonie No. 8

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As German conductor Günther Herbig works his way through the symphonies of Shostakovich with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: ''work" is the operative word. In this 2006 recording of the Symphony No. 8 in C minor, the second of the composer's Great Patriotic War symphonies sounds less like a labor of love than a barnyard chore. Herbig and the Saarbrücken musicians dig deep but never deep enough, play loud but never loud enough, play quiet but never quiet enough, and never ever play with the kind of rabid intensity that this heroic and horrific symphony demands. In an earlier recording by Kiril Kondrashin or a later recording by Valery Gergiev, the work stands as one of the great monuments to war and suffering. In this recording by Herbig, it sounds like a hard day on the assembly line. While both Herbig and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester are obviously highly skilled and thoroughly professional, the sort of life-and-death dedication the work calls for just isn't present in their performance. Berlin Classics' digital sound is strong and straightforward, if rather unlovely.

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