Frank Shipway

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10; Gadfly Suite

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Written almost immediately after Stalin's death in 1953, the Symphony No. 10 in E minor by Dmitry Shostakovich is often interpreted as an outpouring of dark expressions that had been pent-up for years, due to the repressive state of music in the Soviet Union. Shostakovich had been attacked for composing "formalist" music, and after being obligated for years to write vapid, bombastic works to satisfy Stalin's political demands, Shostakovich at last had the opportunity to create music according to his own lights, and used this symphony to vent his spleen and give voice to his wounded spirit. Certainly, the alleged portrait of Stalin of the second movement is etched in acid, and the painful dissonant counterpoint that is unleashed in this symphony is the work of a mind torn between outrage and grief. This performance by Frank Shipway and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is ostensibly a showcase for the orchestra's extraordinary abilities and sonorities, and the fantastic sound quality of this state-of-the-art digital recording presents the ensemble to best advantage. Yet it's the emotional depths attained that will captivate listeners, more than any vivid orchestral displays, and in consideration of the brooding feeling of this Requiem-like symphony, that's perfectly appropriate. Presumably meant to give a little lightness to this album, Shipway has included a shortened suite from Shostakovich's film score The Gadfly, which is familiar to many for its Romance, once used as the theme music for Reilly: Ace of Spies. The fit may not be ideal for some, since the sentimentality of the Romance and the old-fashioned feeling of the other selections create a sense of shallowness and pointlessness, and the Symphony No. 10 is such an imposing work, perhaps no filler was necessary.

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