Philippe Entremont / Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5

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Written following the great political scrutiny and discontent that was created by the Fourth Symphony and the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, the Fifth Symphony was Shostakovich's attempt to regain some stability from the Stalinist regime. The result was an unprecedented success at the premiere, and a popularity among his symphonies that has endured. This Cascavelle album features the performance of a French conductor -- Philippe Entremont -- leading a Chinese orchestra -- the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra -- through one of the most frequently recorded and performed Russian symphonies. An interesting combination of perspectives to be sure, but the result is little more than acceptable. The SSO's playing is generally good, but there are some shortcomings that prevent this disc from being a highly recommended choice. For one, articulation is not as precisely executed as might be hoped. Crisper attacks and more exact cohesiveness within sections (particularly the strings) would be much preferred. Entremont's interpretation is somewhat safe and predictable. Where's the urgency of the first movement; the searing, angst-filled tension of the third movement; or the wild abandoned of the Finale? Without these elements, Entremont falls short of an ideal, gripping recording. This is also a rather lean album at only 53 minutes total time.

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