SHOSTAKOVICH: The Nose (Satirical Opera in Three Acts)
Mariinsky Soloists, Chorus and Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
MARIINSKY MARO501 (2 disks) TT: 50:41 & 50:56
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SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 10. Symphony No. 15 in A, Op. 141.
Mariinsky Theatre Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
MARIINSKY MARO502 TT: 75:52
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MAHLER: Symphony No. 8 in E flat "Symphony of a Thousand." Adagio from Symphony No. 10.
Erwin Hall,Elza Van Den Heever, Laura Claycomb, sopranos; Katarina Karnéus, Yvonne Naef, mezzo-sopranos; Anthony Dean Griffey, tenor; Quinn Kelsey, baritone; James Morris, bass-baritone; San Francisco Symphony Chorus; Pacific Boychoir; San Francisco Girls Chorus; San Francisco Symphony Orch/Michael Tilson Thomas, cond.
SAN FRANCISCO SO SACD 821936-0021 (2 disks) TT: 112:01
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Here we have the auspicious beginning of a series of recordings by the Mariinsky Theatre and their conductor Valery Gerviev. Shostakovich was only 22 in 1928 when he completed his first opera The Nose. This satire is about Major Kovalyev, a government official who has the misfortune of having his barber cut off his nose and finds that the nose has a mind of its own—it wants its own political career. This opera is scored for a rather small orchestra: 30 instruments including domras, balalaikas and a flexatone. Each of the numerous characters has his own leitmotif, and there are traces of folksong and jazz. Many dazzling orchestral interludes include a stunning showcase for 9 percussion instruments between the second and third scenes. The performance is vivid in every way, a strong challenge to the only other recording of the work made in 1975 conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky, currently available on Melodiya. Gergiev's recording was made July 15-23, 2008 in the Mariinsky Concert Hall. Producer James Mallinson and recording engineers John Newton and Dirk Sobotka have done in magnificent job capturing the performances in spacious SACD sonics. This is a handsome presentation with profuse program notes and a complete libretto in three languages. Outstanding!

Gergiev's coupling of Shostakovich's first and last symphonies also is a brilliant success. Orchestral playing is outstanding, and again we have outstanding SACD sonics. As with The Nose, audio is broad and spacious. Audiophiles will delight in low bass that will test their woofers—production team is the same as for The Nose. Recommended!

Michael Tilson Thomas completes his traversal of Mahler's numbered symphonies with this 2 SACD set of the Adagio from Symphony No. 10 and the gigantic Symphony of a Thousand. The Adagio was recorded April 6-8, 2006, Symphony No. 8 , November 19-23, 2008.This site mentioned SACD recordings of Symphony No. 8 conducted by Bernard Haitink (REVIEW),
Kent Nagano (REVIEW), Sir Colin Davis (REVIEW), Valery Gergiev (REVIEW), and a DVD Audio disc by Riccardo Chailly (REVIEW) (which apparently is no longer available). Collectors should keep in mind there are two video DVD performances of this symphony. Klaus Tennstedt conducts the London Philharmonic in a performance recorded in Royal Festival Hall in 1991 (REVIEW), and Leonard Bernstein conducts the Vienna Philharmonic (and a short-staffed Vienna State Opera Chorus), a performance taped in 1975 (REVIEW). Both of these disappoint, as do the other multi-channel recordings. By default the new San Francisco recording is among the finest modern recordings of this symphony. Soloists throughout are excellent, particularly the sopranos, and even though the main choruses are not overly large (the SF Chorus has 180 members) , they do make a big sound as here recorded. This is a welcome issue. Yet to be released are Rückert Lieder, Songs of a Wayfarer and Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Fine though these multi-channel issues are, they do not replace historic performances of the past, particularly those by Leopold Stokowski and Jascha Horenstein (REVIEW).

R.E.B. (August 2009)

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