With the addition of this disc to his much-acclaimed Shostakovich symphony cycle, Mariss Jansons' endeavor is complete just in time for the composer's centenary year. In keeping with the tradition of his last three recordings for this set, Jansons is featured at the helm of his very own Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra & Chorus. The diverse cycle, in its entirety, features performances from orchestras across the globe, including the London Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Oslo and Berlin Philharmonic orchestras. The symphonies that Jansons has procrastinated in recording have a set of oddly different requirements. Shostakovich's experimental and contiguous Symphony No. 3 is prone to lackluster readings; it has never been one of the composer's most popular. And, while the Symphony No. 14 is certainly not unpopular, it presents its own difficulties of dark, suicidal texts in numerous languages all translated into Russian (at least one venerated conductor, Bernard Haitink, has recorded the work with the texts all in their original languages of origin). Neither of these factors, though, is an obstacle for Jansons. In fact, rarely has a Third ever radiated with such blazing intensity, commitment, and energy as Jansons and his orchestra give this performance. Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony play both works with the crass bite of a Russian orchestra, mixed with the passion and excitement that would be expected from a period Russian group and complemented by the addition of accuracy rarely given by such forces. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Chorus proves to be a formidable interpreter of Semyon Kirsanov's text "The First of May," which in Shostakovich's dark setting remains somewhat politically enigmatic. For Shostakovich's monumentally depressing Fourteenth, Jansons joins forces with two outstanding artists: bass Sergei Aleksashkin, a former member of the Kirov, and relative newcomer and soprano, Larissa Gogolewskaja. Indeed, it's difficult to imagine a better pairing than that of these two: both singers convey a sense of empathy and understanding to Shostakovich's music and bring out the deep, dark pain of Shostakovich's chamber-esque masterwork. Jansons has the Bavarian Radio Symphony in top form for this recording; one of the best of both works ever to appear. Highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by C. Ryan Hill
|Symphony No. 3 in E flat major (The First of May), Op. 20|
|Symphony No. 14 for soprano, bass, strings & percussion, Op. 135|