Mariss Jansons

Shostakovich: The Complete Symphonies [Box Set]

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To celebrate the 100th birthday of the great Soviet composer Dmitry Shostakovich, Mariss Jansons assembled eight of the world's finest orchestras to determine which is the best of his 15 symphonies. There is no doubt that Jansons is the man for the job. Trained under Mravinsky and long steeped in Shostakovich's music, Jansons brings a lifetimes' love and intimacy to his interpretations -- not to mention a terrific baton technique and an unfailing sense of tempo. Listening to these performances recorded between 1988 and 2005, one is consistently aware of Jansons' unwavering conviction that while all Shostakovich's symphonies are great music and some of them are greater than others, each one deserves his best effort. In the lesser symphonies, he makes the strongest possible case for the ideological inanities of the Second and Third and Social Realist banalities of the Eleventh and Twelfth and makes us appreciate the musical worth in work done for the Party. In the better symphonies, Jansons finds the bone-deep humanity of the Seventh and Eighth and the bitterest ironies in the Fifth and Tenth and makes us experience our common terror and exaltation. And in the best symphonies, Jansons explores the existential profundities of the Fourth and Fifteenth and makes us connect to our inner atheist. Some orchestras are perhaps better than others -- the Wiener Philharmoniker's Fifth is absolutely incandescent -- and some orchestras are surely more apt than others -- the St. Petersburg Philharmonic is clearly the band to get for the "Leningrad" Symphony -- but all of the orchestras' performances are as good as their best. Listeners looking for a digitally recorded cycle of Shostakovich's symphonies could not do better than this set.

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