Oleg Caetani

Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 15

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The composition of Shostakovich's 15 symphonies spanned some 47 years -- the bulk of his career. A great many things happened during that half century that influenced and shaped his music and his approach to composition. How interesting it should be, then, to have both his First and Fifteenth symphonies together on one album and be able to observe the changes in his approach to the symphony, but Oleg Caetani and the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi fall a little short of taking the listener on this long journey. Too often, it truly sounds like an Italian orchestra trying to play Shostakovich and there is little distinction in approach between the two symphonies.

This is not to say that this is a bad recording. The orchestra is technically proficient, the ensemble is tight, and there are some rather exciting climaxes. But as usual, the devil is in the details, and some of the nuance in this performance simply does not equate with Shostakovich. The E flat clarinet is far too "nice" sounding, with no edge to speak of. The cello solo at the beginning of the Fifteenth Symphony sounds too much like the cello solo beginning a Rossini overture -- far too much vibrato and glissando. Adagios and soft passages are overcomplicated; there's no sense of the glass-like stillness that's achieved with truly spectacular performances of Shostakovich's works.

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