SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphon No. 8
GABRIELLI: Music for Brass and Organ
Pentatone concludes their Ring cycle with Götterdämmerung. Like the other Wagner operas in this commendable series, there is much of value, particularly in the exciting orchestral playing under Marek Janowski's dynamic direction. As obvious from many broadcasts (and recordings) of Wagner the past few years, there is a great shortage of singers who are up to their task, and again, that is the case here. Lance Ryan's Siegfried is sorely taxed by this demanding, less obviously so than in Pentatone's Siegfried (REVIEW). Petra Lang has a veiled sound, and negotiates her role accurately, but this is not a Brünnhilde to stir emotions, or excite from sheer vocal power. She recorded the Immolation Scene with Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra with equally disappointing results (REVIEW). This is a handsome release beautifully packaged with copious notes and complete libretto. For some, this Ring is worth owning simply because of the brilliant orchestral playing and Janowski's conducting. Audio is superb, very wide-range, but not particularly "surround."
Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8, written in the summer of 1943 two years after the battalistic Leningrad symphony, is one of the composer's most brooding, tragic works. There are five movements, the first almost a half-hour in length, and one can easily imagine somber, dark musical images of tragedy, violent battle and desolation. As the Russians had defeated the Nazis, perhaps authorities had expected some kind of triumphant victory symphony. They surely did not get it. Shostakovich disliked Stalin, and this symphony surely does not reflect any worthy conquest or future. The music is bleak, often violent, and sometimes ironically superficial. Gergiev and his fine Russian orchestra continue their Shostakovich symphony series (only No. 6 remains) with this recording made over an extended period of time: Jue 15-17, 2011, May 16, 2012 and March 23, 2013. The orchestra is in top form, and audio on this new issue is excellent. However, there is tremendous competition, particularly the recent Naxos issue with Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. And we are fortunate to have a live performance recorded in 1960 with Yevgeny Mravinsky and the Leningrad Philharmonic included in the new BBC Legends set (REVIEW). And don't miss the remarkable video with Andris Nelsons and the Royal Concertgebouw (REVIEW).
Pentatone's Gabrielli SACD is a knockout! Gabriell's music and here it is heard as the composer intended when he wrote it. We are taken back to the 17th century and find ourselves in a spacious resonant cathedral, in this case the Berlin Dom. Organist Andreas Sieling is joined by a large brass ensemble of some of the finest players in Berlin, and they have been spaced in different sections of the church, all beautifully captured by producer Job Maarse. This is a sonic multi-channel treat taking full advantage of the SACD medium. Don't miss this one!
R.E.B. (December 2013)