Dmitry Shostakovich – Symphonies Nos. 5 & 9 – Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko (2009) [Qobuz 24-44,1]

Dmitry Shostakovich – Symphonies Nos. 5 & 9 – Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko (2009)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 01:18:01 minutes | 669 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz |  @ Naxos Rights
Recorded at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, England, on 7th and 8th July, 2008 (tracks 1-4), and 29th and 30th July, 2008 (tracks 5-9)

Following their electrifying account of Shostakovich’s Eleventh Symphony (8.572082), Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra explore the profound ambivalences of the composer’s most performed symphony, the Fifth, written in 1937 at a time when he was under intense personal and political pressure from the authorities. The jaunty, neo-classical character of the Ninth Symphony (1945) prompted Shostakovich to remark that ‘musicians will like to play it, and critics will delight in blasting it’. Shostakovich’s startlingly different original draft for the opening of the Ninth’s first movement is available on 8.572138.

Vasily Petrenko is an outstanding Shostakovich conductor, as attentive to small details as he is to larger issues of structure and balance; his Fifth Symphony offers as fine an interpretation as any available. The first movement builds inexorably to a perfectly timed climax. He adopts a wide range of tempos without ever sounding too slow in the outer sections, and the ghostly coda, with the final fadeout perfectly timed, is exquisite. The scherzo’s inherent clunkiness never turns into mannerism (the music needs little help), while the Largo has just the right hushed intensity, superbly sustained. Petrenko takes the slow option for the coda of the finale, and once again builds the climaxes as well as anyone ever has. A terrific performance.

The Ninth also has a lot to recommend it. The Liverpool wind players really do themselves proud, especially in the first two movements. Petrenko pushes the scherzo a bit faster than the strings can readily manage, and this smears their rhythmic articulation in the central trio section with solo trumpet, but that’s the only reservation I have about this performance, and it’s a very minor one.

Sonically though, there’s a lack of bass to the string sound that seems endemic to English orchestras these days, though the engineering also seems to give the cellos and basses short shrift. That the issue may be one of microphone placement rather than any serious deficiency in the playing itself gains some support in listening to the coda of the Fifth’s finale. There, those endlessly repeated “A’s” in the violins and piano favor the keyboard in a manner that you’ll never hear balanced in a live performance. None of this detracts from Petrenko’s achievement, though. He’s building up a series well worth hearing. –David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

Dmitry Shostakovich (1906-1975)
Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 47
1. I. Moderato 00:18:01
2. II. Allegretto 00:05:12
3. III. Largo 00:15:34
4. IV. Allegro non troppo 00:12:50

Symphony No. 9 in E-Flat Major, Op. 70
5. I. Allegro 00:05:25
6. II. Moderato 00:08:47
7. III. Presto – 00:02:39
8. IV. Largo – 00:03:33
9. V. Allegretto 00:06:06

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko, conductor