Andris Nelsons / Boston Symphony Orchestra

Shostakovich: Under Stalin's Shadow - Symphony No. 10

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The "Under Stalin's Shadow" subtitle of this release may be confusing inasmuch as the opening Passacaglia from the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District dates from before the period when Stalin made Shostakovich's life a living hell, and the main attraction, the Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93, was finished ten months after Stalin's death. Actually the album is the first in a set of three; the others will cover the symphonies No. 5 through No. 9, all written during the period of Stalinist cultural control. But even here the theme is relevant: the pieces are linked by a dark mood that carries overtones (of a feminist sort in the case of the opera) of repression. And the Symphony No. 10 is decidedly some kind of turning point, with repeated (and finally triumphant) assertions of the D-S-C-H motif (D, E flat, C, B natural in the German system) that would appear frequently in the composer's later work. Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Andris Nelsons, who grew up in Soviet-controlled Latvia, is to be believed when he claims a spiritual kinship with Shostakovich, and he delivers a full-blooded performance of the Symphony No. 10 that rises from deepest introspective gloom to a fine example of Shostakovich's sarcasm, to the discovery of the motif, to a triumphant finale enthusiastically greeted by Symphony Hall's usually reserved patrons. Deutsche Grammophon's live engineering, in the orchestra's first recording for the label, is notably clear and sharp. A superior reading of one of the lesser-known Shostakovich symphonies.

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