Valery Gergiev's recordings of Shostakovich's Sixth through Ninth symphonies were released on Philips, but this disc of the First and Fifteenth symphonies has been issued on the Mariinsky label, which is run by the St. Petersburg theater from which the label takes its name. The performances are disappointing, but not from a technical point of view; Gergiev is one of the finest living Russian conductors, and the Mariinsky Orchestra is one of the best Russian orchestras whose playing here is never less than superb. On an interpretive level, though, Gergiev and the Mariinsky leave much to be desired. The First Symphony lacks fire in the opening Allegretto, drive in the Scherzo, depth in the Lento, and drama in the closing Allegro molto. The performance of the Fifteenth is even less impressive. The composer's last symphony calls for biting humor and bitter irony in the first and third movements, and enormous sorrow and tremendous terror in the second and fourth movements. Gergiev and the Mariinsky, however, deliver a straight-forward account that leaves the work's stronger emotions untouched. Recorded in clear but oddly empty digital sound, this disc may satisfy Gergiev fans, but may not do much for fans of the composer.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
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