Roberto Beltrán-Zavala / re:orchestra

Shostakovich: Chamber Symphonies Op. 73a & 83a

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AllMusic Review by James Manheim

Rudolf Barshai's chamber orchestra version of the Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8, Op. 110 is often performed and tends to overshadow the arrangements Barshai made of other Shostakovich quartets, all with the composer's blessing. The pair of "chamber symphonies" here, made from the Third and Fourth String Quartets, are rarely played, and they're quite appropriate to the medium. The Re:Orchestra under conductor Roberto Beltrán-Zavala gives careful, tense performances that modulate beautifully between wiry and lush, in the vein of Barshai's own recordings, and the musicians make an excellent case for these versions. Better still is the context created by just a few added short pieces: traditional dances from Romania and Russia that point to the influence of folk music on Shostakovich's own highly rhythmic idiom. The Russian Klezmer Dance that emerges as a natural yet moving and chilling apotheosis of the Chamber Symphony, Op. 83a, which has a good deal of Jewish melodic content (a gutsy decision on Shostakovich's part considering the rising anti-Semitism of the late Stalin years), is especially effective. BIS' studio sound, from a music room at the Dutch Radio and Television complex in Hilversum, is superbly attuned to what's happening here. Highly recommended.

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