Music Web International: Recording of the Month April 2012; Klassik Heute 10/10/10 July 2012.
This well-filled disc combines the first three symphonies by Dmitri Shostakovich, all written before the composer had reached his twenty-third birthday. The First Symphony was in fact the graduation piece that completed his studies at the Leningrad Conservatory, but to quote Mark Wigglesworth’s own liner notes to this disc, ‘Shostakovich’s trade-mark musical gestures are all immediately obvious. Nervous tension and sarcastic wit, passion and intelligence, contemplation and action, nobility and banality – all expressed with an economy of means that is simultaneously subtle and direct.’ The work was an immediate success, and soon gained worldwide recognition through performances by Walter, Toscanini, and Klemperer. ‘The Soviet Union had discovered its first international star, and the authorities proclaimed him as an exaltation of the new at the expense of the old.’ The two symphonies that followed fared much less well, however, and are still rarely performed in concert. At least nominally, there is a political theme to both works - the Second Symphony was a commission from the State Publishing House to honour the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution, and the Third, with its subtitle ‘The First of May’, was a celebration of the international Worker’s Day. Both works end with choral finales, to texts which proclaim mottos such as ‘Labour, joy and song’ and ‘Revolution, march with a million feet!’, but the scores themselves proved too experimental for the taste of the Soviet authorities, and did little to enhance the standing of their composer. This disc is the penultimate in what ‘could be the most important Shostakovich cycle of recent times’ according to the reviewer on MusicWeb-International. Wigglesworth and his players in the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra have received great acclaim for their performances of the mature symphonies such as the Eighth or Thirteenth, ‘Babi Yar’, and here offer us the beginnings, works which in Mark Wigglesworth’s words ‘encapsulate all the musical ideas that were to remain present throughout the composer’s life.’
Extra material for download