Gustavo Gimeno / Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1; Scherzi; Theme and Variations; Five Fragments

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This recording may be aimed primarily at Shostakovich fans: the Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 10, written when the composer was 19, is not terribly often recorded, and the four shorter pieces that follow it are rarer still. But the music can stand on its own for general listeners. The symphony is an entertaining four-movement work, but it may be the weakest of the group in the rather calm performance by Spanish conductor Gustavo Gimeno, leading the Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg. The rest of the music, though, presents an excellent overview of Shostakovich's early development. The jocular Scherzo for orchestra in F sharp minor, Op. 1, and Scherzo for orchestra in E flat major, Op. 7, make an instructive pair: the earlier work contains hints of the edgy Shostakovich humor, and the E flat Scherzo presents it full-blown. The most conservative work on the program is the Theme and variations for orchestra in B flat major, Op. 3, a student exercise that sounds like Tchaikovsky. The Five Fragments for orchestra, Op. 42, played without a break, are tonally daring pieces of the kind that got the composer in hot water in the 1930s, and they're well worth revival. The performances are clean throughout, attractive for those who prefer their Shostakovich without too much of a Russian vein, and generally this is a strong choice for a good shelf or hard drive of Shostakovich.

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