Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5; Excerpts from The Gadfly

London Symphony Orchestra / Maxim Shostakovich

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Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5; Excerpts from The Gadfly Review

by James Leonard

This is easily one of the greatest recordings of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony ever recorded, and the reason is plain: the conductor is the composer's son. Nepotism is not in and of itself a good thing -- one thinks of Beethoven's nephew's ill-starred career as a composer -- but Maxim Shostakovich is a thoroughly trained professional who has both superb baton technique and absolute identification with his father's music. With the virtuoso support of the London Symphony Orchestra, Shostakovich delivers a performance of enormous power and immense restraint, both essential qualities in this work. He fully conveys the opening Moderato's blinding fury, the Scherzo's bitter irony, the Largo's searing pathos, and the Finale's irreducible enmity. There is never a sense the conductor is milking the score, but rather bringing out its core elements. Coupled with a wonderfully effective performance of six excerpts from the film score for The Gadfly, this disc should be heard by anyone who values the composer. Originally recorded in spectacular digital sound for Collins in 1990 and 1991, Alto's remastering appears to be pretty much a straight transfer.

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