Aug 19

shostakovichEdition

 

Shostakovich Edition, by Brilliant Classics ★★★★★

I had many of the pieces in this set, such as Barshai’s set of the Shostakovich symphonies. Then, there were many performances that I didn’t have, such as the wonderful production of the string quartets by the Rubio Quartet. There were many works that I didn’t have. This is the most complete set of Shostakovich currently available, and it is a wonderful set, with great performances, and flawless recordings. Many of the pieces have been performed better by others, yet none of the performances would receive less than 4 stars. Sadly, it is not a complete Shostakovich, with smaller works missing from the set. There is much of his film music that would be best left to listening to when watching the film. Shostakovich’s operas are also vastly more interesting when accompanied by the video, as the sound does not stand alone like  operas such as from Mozart which can be enjoyed either with or without the visual play action. Together, this set was an incredible bargain when purchased through Amazon.com. Because I am a strong fan of Shostakovich’s music, I can highly recommend picking this set up, even if you haven’t ever heard him before; it will give you a broad sample of much of what he wrote.

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Jul 25

Shostakovich Complete Symphonies, performed by Kiril Kondrashin and Moscow Symphony Orchestra ?????

As you can tell, I’ve been reviewing mostly Russian music, including Borodin, Rachmaninoff, and Shostakovich. Shostakovich is my favorite of all Russian composers. This 11-CD set includes all 15 of Shostakovich’s symphonies, as well as his violin concerto. Though recorded a few years ago by Melodia, the sound is quite excellent. Kondrashin provides very convincing performances, that rank among the best. His tempo and dynamics often differ a bit from western conductors, but is done in a way that is quite pleasing. The 5th symphony is comparatively slower than Bernstein’s, yet maintains all the vim and fire worthy of the symphony. This is a set of Shostakovich’s symphonies that is worth having, and is probably the best Russian performances available. I have complete sets by Barshai, Haitink, Maxim Shostakovich, and Jansons, as well as this set by Kondrashin, and tend to prefer the Kondrashin and Jansons sets above the others. Each conductor provides a much different interpretation of these symphonies, and all of the sets are worth having. Kondrashin would be a reasonable starting set for the beginner.

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Dec 17

Shostakovich Piano Trios #1 & 2, Seven Romances on verses by Alexander Blok ?????

I’ve been listening to the works of the Beaux Arts Trio, who perform a number of classical as well as modern composers, but have selected a few that are my favorites. Of the modern composers, Shostakovich has written the best piano trios. They are tuneful, easy to listen to, and conducive to many repeat listening sessions. There aren’t many piano trios that are wearisome to listen to, whether they are from Beethoven, Mozart, Chausson, Faure, Brahms, or whoever. Yet, the Shostakovich trios stand out as the best of the best. These are NOT Schubert quartets. They are far more soulful, heart-wrenching, agonizing. The trios are accompanied by seven romances that consist of the piano trio plus a solo soprano, also well done, but doesn’t totally fit with the two trios on this disc. For the 20th century classic music aficionado, these are piano trios of that genre at their best, and a must-have.

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Oct 27

Shostakovich String Quartets, Borodin String Quartets ?????

I have four versions of the Shostakovich String Quartets, including those by the Borodin, Fitzwilliam, Shostakovich, and Emerson Quartets. The Borodin was my first purchase, and still my favorite, though I would be reluctant to give any of the renditions anything less than 5 stars, as they are all well done. This recording is slightly more recessive than the others, as though it was recorded in a large hall, giving it a sense of the mysterious depth than seems to be written into this music. The performers seem to have a feel for the great angst and depression that Shostakovich was experiencing as he wrote his most intimate and private works, many of these quartets not being performed or published until after his death. They are creative, soulful, brilliant in their composition, and reflective of the greatest of the greatest composer of the 20th century. Included in this set is the most delightful piano quintet. I will offer special mention to the 15th string quartet, Shostakovich’s last. It begins with an elegy, immediately followed by the screech quartet, a funeral march, and finally a very active ending. It is the composer at his greatest, and in this quartet, Shostakovich says more than most 20th century composers in their lifetime of compositional output. This is truly a set of string quartets worth owning.

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