Paavo Järvi / Estonian Festival Orchestra

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 6; Sinfonietta

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The Alpha label has been reconfigured into part of the larger OutHere group, with a general repertory replacing the Renaissance and Baroque specialties of the sumptuously packaged former label. One thing has remained the same, however, at least in this release by conductor Paavo Järvi and the ad hoc but highly talented Estonian Festival Orchestra: packaging that delves into the context of the music involved. In this case you get pictures of Shostakovich with the Järvi family, whom he met on the Baltic coast in 1973. Whether that resulted in an especially sympathetic reading of the Shostakovich Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 54, is debatable, but the fact remains that Järvi gets real zip into the finale, giving it a generous dose of the pure sardonic Shostakovich spirit. The orchestral version of the String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110, is another matter. It is not the familiar orchestration by Rudolf Barshai but one by Abram Stasevich that adds a timpani, using it to emphasize some of the quartet's famous block chords. The timpani is not always present, and what Stasevich does falls less in the realm of arrangement than in that of recomposition. One may note that the festival setting is conducive to such floated ideas; one may also wonder what it is about this particular string quartet, lovely in itself, that keeps people fooling with it. Your mileage may vary. In any event, a fine and fun recording of the somewhat neglected Symphony No. 6.

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