Mark Wigglesworth

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 13 'Babi Yar'

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Not bad as far as it goes, Mark Wigglesworth and the Netherlands Radio Choir and Philharmonic Orchestra's performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 13 goes nowhere near far enough. There's plenty of power in the playing -- listen to the walloping attack of the tympani, the blistering tone of the brass, and the searing strength of the strings -- plenty of energy in the singing -- listen to the weight of fortes and the mass of the tuttis -- and plenty of sympathy in the conducting -- Wigglesworth clearly grasps the musical aspects of the work and articulates them with admirable clarity and vigor. But plenty of power, energy, and sympathy aren't enough -- Shostakovich's Thirteenth needs righteous indignation and an unquenchable thirst for justice in order to succeed. The Thirteenth, after all, is Shostakovich's monumental setting of poetry by Yevgeny Yevtushenko passionately condemning the moral failings of the U.S.S.R. -- and anything less than unassuageable anger is nowhere near enough. Although BIS' 2006 digital recording is very live and very present, it lacks the ultimate reality of a truly great performance to give it meaning. For a great Shostakovich Thirteenth, try Kiril Kondrashin and the Moscow Philharmonic's 1963 recording. They'd just given the work its world premiere and the performance has yet to be beat for unbearable intensity and overwhelming ferocity.

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