CD Reviews 31

Symphony No. 4, opus 43, Haitink, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Symphony No. 10, opus 93, Bychkov, WDR Sinfonie-Orchester Köln

Symphony No. 10, opus 93, Haitink, London Philharmonic Orchestra

Symphony No. 10, opus 93, Järvi, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Symphony No. 11, opus 103, Petrenko, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra


Glanert: Theatrum bestiarum, Bychkov, WDR Sinfonie-Orchester Köln

Tormis: Overture No. 2 Järvi, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

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Symphony No. 4 in C minor, opus 43.
Bernard Haitink, Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Bonus DVD: Chicago Symphony Orchestra Beyond the Scoredocumentary, Creative Director Gerard McBurney.
CSO-Resound 901 814. DDD. TT 70:26 + bonus DVD 57:29.
Symphony recorded in 2008.

With almost thirty years between them, Haitink’s 1979 (Decca 00289-475 7413) and 2008 performances of Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony are bound to show some differences in interpretation. The Decca 1979 recording with the London Philharmonic Orchestra is still one of the most visceral and moving performances of this symphony, ranking alongside Rattle’s 1995 EMI disc for both sheer virtuosity and emotional depth. When Haitink made his 1979 recording, performances of this work were still quite a rarity. With quite a few of the score’s metronome markings apparently erroneous and the work itself so little-known, he had to make clear decisions about what to do with passages that even today remain problematic.

One such is the long stretch that concludes the dance-sequence of the finale, just before the momentous coda, which can so often sag. Another is the pacing of the first movement main climax, where the metronome mark of quaver = 60 feels far too slow for most conductors in relation to the preceding tempo, but crotchet = 60 is clearly out of the question. It’s an error that cannot be resolved authoritatively on the basis of current scholarship, let alone what was available in 1979; and so each conductor has to wrestle with this, and similar conundrums themselves. In the Decca recording, Haitink comes as close to realising the composer’s intentions as any have done: he takes the quaver = 60 and pushes it up to around quaver = 80 – still a slower tempo than many successors have felt comfortable with, but it really does work. Clearly comfortable with this decision, he replicates it in this new Chicago Symphony Orchestra disc.

But the passage in the finale is a different matter. In 1979 it breezed along without the slightest suspicion of dragging; in the later recording it sags terribly. The reason for this isn’t immediately obvious, though part of it surely lies in the fact that Haitink and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra fail to invest much of the dance sequence itself with the humour and faux naiveté that it needs. With the London Philharmonic, Haitink’s lightness of touch here gives Shostakovich’s cheeky waltzes, polkas and galops a sparkle and flair that then carries through into the difficult extended ‘polka’ section from fig. 219. All that is gone in the Chicago performance, and not necessarily because it is slower. The playing itself lacks humour, and this may be a conscious interpretative decision on Haitink’s part. Certainly, considering the historical background to this work’s composition, there doesn’t seem much to laugh about. But paradoxes are key to the symphony’s character: one moment it is cheeky and playful, and the next plunged into searing tragedy. Toning down the humour has the effect of reducing the emotional impact of its tragedy too, whereas a more literal approach such as taken in the 1979 recording – where the jokes are taken at face value – produces far more shattering climaxes than anything the Chicago Symphony Orchestra achieve in this performance.

Right from the outset, the difference in orchestral sound and playing styles is striking. Where the LPO are light and fleet-footed, the Chicago Symphony are heavyweight, even stodgy. The visceral force of the LPO’s account is missing even though the Chicago Symphony can match the LPO’s climaxes decibel for decibel. It may be have something to do with sound engineering which, as most listeners now know, can transform a performance to the point where the difference between the live and engineered experience is almost total. Whatever the cause, the LPO’s performance far outclasses the Chicago Symphony’s.

And this is a pity, because the Chicago disc comes in a 2-disc set with a fantastic DVD that by itself makes the release worth buying. Featuring a brilliant informal talk by Gerard McBurney as well as his public lecture (illustrated by excerpts from the symphony), interviews with Haitink, and other special features, the DVD gives a cultural background to the Fourth Symphony that very few listeners have access to. The public lecture is essentially a pre-concert talk on a grand scale, with the orchestra there to play extracts, and a film screen on which to project a huge range of images, ranging from massive Soviet construction projects, the destruction of churches and mass parades to images of appalling horror and pathos: men simply lining up, quietly waiting for their turn to be shot. The juxtapositions of music and image are often extremely effective, especially when there is an apparent mismatch. The opening march of the first movement is played to images that include marching children in a parade – set to music that suggests coercion and violence, they immediately become pitiful characters in a lethal experiment. The funeral march of the finale is played as we see images of Sergei Kirov’s funeral procession; and as the unfocused, dream-like second subject of the first movement is heard, we see a big wheel turning (among other fairground images) which then becomes invested with a haunting atmosphere of unreality.

But the most shocking of all the images come at the end of the finale. Old black and white photographs of Soviet citizens appear, only to have their faces blacked out to denote their erasure from history. McBurney explains how they came by the pictures in his informal talk. The British collector David King, whose personal archive contains pictures and posters from the Soviet era, was given a photograph collection by Alexander Rodchenko’s family, consisting of images of commissars who ‘vanished’ in the purges. Rodchenko had personally blacked out their faces as they were purged, but their names were left intact. King actually travelled to Siberia to match up the defaced images with those in the camp archives, producing a set of matching images that illustrate with heart-breaking clarity the tragedy of those who not only perished but who even had their faces erased so that, in McBurney’s words, ‘we should never see them again.’ Set to the most agonised music of the symphony – the initial shattering ‘coda’ of the finale – the ‘before’ and ‘after’ images of these eliminated souls have an unforgettable power. And right at the very end, while the second, quiet, coda brings the symphony to its empty, desolate conclusion, we see Shostakovich’s own face, focusing on his eyes. The very last picture is the only one I have seen of the composer without his glasses – an image so striking that I did not even recognise it at first. The whole illustrated talk is so superbly put together that I cannot recommend it too strongly: it is not an experience easily forgotten. It is a pity that the Chicago Symphony performance flags in places, and is outclassed by several others still available. But for the extra DVD alone this disc is well worth buying: this isn’t material that most of us will see again.

Pauline Fairclough

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Symphony No. 10 in E minor, opus 93[a]; Glanert: Theatrum bestiarum[b].
Semyon Bychkov, WDR Sinfonie-Orchester Köln.

Avie AV 2137. Hybrid SACD, stereo/multichannel. TT 75:06.
Recorded at the Kölner Philharmonie, 12–17 April 2005[a], 21 December 2006[b].

Symphony No. 10 in E minor, opus 93.
Bernard Haitink, London Philharmonic Orchestra.
LPO 0034. ADD. TT 55:00.
Recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 28 August 1986.

Symphony No. 10 in E minor, opus 93; Veljo Tormis: Overture No. 2.
Paavo Järvi, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Telarc CD-80702. DDD. TT 67:35.
Recorded in Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio, 27–28 April 2008.

Bychkov’s rendition makes a strong impression, with one or two caveats in terms of the sound imaging. Such as in the first movement; the clarinet solo at figure 15 for example (and again at 56), where the solo instrument sounds somewhat removed from the accompanying strings, lacking their presence. In both places the clarinet dynamic sounds piano at best, not the mezzo forte the composer called for. Whether interpretation or sound engineering is responsible, the impression is that at these moments the desired effect was missing. Certain indicators here suggest Shostakovich sought a relatively full-throated foreground against a hushed background; in particular two bars prior to 16 where the clarinet swells back to mf (from an unspecified diminuendo from mf) and whilst the strings stay at pp (and he specifies non cresc.). This is not quite what we get here.

  That said, the opening strings have a good full sound and well-maintained momentum. The movement swells to its climax with brutal flutter-tongue trumpets after figure 40. In its aftermath the timbre of the violas at figure 63 is excellent, as is the woodwind chorale at 65 and the flute/piccolo coda.

Bychkov’s second movement is a masterclass in cohesion and power, with viciously crisp polyrhythms after figure 79, snarling low brass in the mock Dies Irae section, and unrelenting momentum from the first note to the last.

The third movement opens a little laboured, lacking in a sense of nervousness it needs. The remainder of the movement is excellent, with sufficient ebb and flow. The accelerando is well measured and controlled, with superb oily low brass. The reprise of the DSCH theme has a slightly tortured element to it, the final piccolo/flute rendition of the theme questioning and uncertain. The coda is perhaps a little leaden, sleepy rather than sleepless.

The introduction to the finale begins a little sluggishly but gets closer to quaver = 126 as it progresses. Liberties on the slow side with the tempi of the third movement and the introduction to the finale can have the unwelcome effect of belittling the short expanses of quicker music comprising the Scherzo and finale proper. Bychkov does just enough to keep his introduction moving before unleashing his finale proper. This does not reach the impossibly fast 176 bpm that Shostakovich designates, and I found the slower tempo this recording chooses limits the requisite excitement. If the solo bassoon at figure 192 lacks its vital ‘chortling’ quality, elsewhere the playing is assured, and the woodwind ensemble in all the skirling passages could hardly be better. By the movement’s end the feeling is of slight disappointment – of not being thrilled quite enough.

Haitink’s 1986 live recording with the London Philharmonic offers good acoustics. The first movement is forceful and expressive enough, though the tempo labours at certain key points. The third theme, in particular at its reprise at figure 57, lags well behind the prescribed 120 bpm. By erring on the side of (too) slow, the symphony loses not only contrast but also one of its foremost characteristics, namely apprehension.
From the first movement duration of Haitink’s 1977 live recording with the same orchestra (Decca 00289 475 7413), it would appear the conductor has not changed his basic interpretation much in the intervening years. Decca’s dynamic range is enormous, almost to a fault (as my neighbours would attest!), and again the first movement is rather too drawn out (although in a sense, the recording’s sonic fullness means it easily accommodates this approach).

Haitink’s 1986 Scherzo takes a few bars to get into gear. It is not quite as gritty and focussed as the Bychkov recording but doesn’t concede much in terms of visceral immediacy. In comparison, Haitink’s 1977 second movement is stunning, with a proud and propulsive snare drum. I had never before been struck by the curious effect of the double bass part in the treble clef at figure 79; which gives an idea of the clarity of Decca’s recording that draws attention to details such as this.

Haitink’s 1986 third movement grabs the attention from bar one and quite simply doesn’t let go. It has a livelier spring to its step than Bychkov’s – lithe and slightly twitchy. It has the added bonus of making the ‘intrusion’ of the first movement’s main tempo of 96 bpm exactly so – an intrusion. The flute/piccolo foretaste of the introduction to the finale also registers more forcefully with its tempo thus differentiated. The resumption of 138 bpm (or close to it) at figure 122 is also most arresting. Haitink’s accelerando thereafter is thrilling. Similarly, the third movement in the 1977 version moves well through its gears and while the 96 bpm of the first movement’s intrusion is actually slower than that, Haitink evokes the contrasting emotional relationship with the slightly faster tempos before and after with aplomb, including a most arresting shift at figure 122 when the tempo quickens once more. The reprised DSCH is very dark and foreboding rather than celebratory; when restrained in the manner the score suggests, the aftermath and the accelerando are much more dramatic and sinister. The coda in particular is superb.

The same laggard approach to the introduction to the finale in Bychkov’s version manifests itself in Haitink’s 1986 reading, though with his more lively third movement the overall impact with Haitink is perhaps lessened.

Slow as it is, the contrast in mood that the introduction to the finale projects is somehow less incongruous than in Bychkov’s rendition, such that I was not overly deterred by it. Nevertheless, listeners might still feel that it is too dirge-like. At its best this section has a confidence of inevitability about it – the onset of a thaw maybe? Once the finale proper begins the tempo ups and the pace is sustained. This has the organicism that I found lacking in the Bychkov, confirming that the rocket fuel the finale runs on is the third movement’s fretfulness, which it burns, devours. The climax of the DSCH theme is wonderful and the reprised introduction (mercifully quicker here) bursts with anticipation as the DSCH theme firmly asserts itself. The bassoon solo of the main theme obliges, and the final assault begins. The horns burst out of their skins at figure 196 before the final bars climb with power and energy followed by the audience who literally scream their approval before the last echo has faded. No short-changing on the thrill factor here. Bravo indeed!

By way of comparison, the introduction to the finale in Haitink’s 1977 version is also a little slow but lifts sufficiently when the finale motive is announced. The tempo is sustained in the aftermath of the tutti DSCH and is heavy with anticipation. The coda sweeps all before it. There is not a great deal to choose between this and Haitink’s more recent version.

Paavo Järvi’s contribution begins with a wonderfully captured string tone (double basses especially) and beautifully swelling dynamics. Clarinet dynamics around figure 15 and 16 are faultless, and what a marvellous effect of the melody submerging within the strings then appearing to rise above, before being swallowed once again. The third thematic group is perhaps a little too brisk, but wonderfully played – such oily low flute tones. The build up through the development is relentless, the parallel third rendition of the third theme at figure 57, a wonderful release (close to the tempo indicated, give or take some well controlled rubato). The main tempo of 96 bpm is taken here much slower with the result that the movement takes on a rather sleepy demeanour in its final pages, and one that I’m sure the composer would not have intended.

Järvi’s second movement seems to fly by. It would appear that in each of the three performances reviewed here, this movement pushes the musicians’ ability the furthest (and all come in at a little over 4 minutes). They succeed well, and there is little to choose between any of these recordings of this movement – they are all breathtaking.

The third movement begins firmly and with pace, but the intrusion of the first movement proceeds at a very slow tempo as does the music thereafter, again becoming somewhat somnambular. The torpidity of the first movement recollection appears almost to stall the dramatic development here, until the music lurches up and beyond the stated tempo at the reprise of the climactic DSCH theme. This leaps out disconcertingly, primarily in terms of tempo but also in dynamics, and provides less room for manoeuvre in the accelerando that follows. I found this a little gratuitous and prematurely triumphal, rendering the accelerando less effective. At the very least it shatters the ironic arbitrariness the composer may have been striving to communicate (the source of the movement’s fretfulness perhaps?) The coda is well paced however.

The introduction of the finale begins at a tempo close to that indicated, and the playing of the wind soloists is undeniably fine, but Järvi slows down considerably once the solo oboe begins, and the result is an overly flaccid and ‘sleepy’ reading. Whilst the music signals (by the appearance of the main motive of the finale) that this finale is imminent, the excessive slowness of its arrival appears to me to fly in the face of the function of this section of the work.

After such solemnity, Järvi’s rollicking finale proper sounds somewhat flippant – even inconsequential: hardly appropriate. Rather, if prepared properly, this section should attain a more genuine, justified sense of high spirits that the second half of the symphony works towards. Shostakovich may have opted for the effect of a flippant appendage in his Sixth Symphony, but not here. This is the expression of genuine joy after extreme hardship, a summer after an inexorable thaw that is the movement and introduction that precede the finale. The finale proper is ultimately played with plenty of verve and excitement; however for reasons I can only suggest lie with the preceding sections, I felt unmoved. The conclusion in itself is thrillingly played but unlike the Haitink it didn’t impel me to leave my seat.

To assess whether shorter durations pay off in terms of pacing and momentum, it is instructive to compare Karajan’s 1982 recording with the Berlin Philharmonic (Deutsche Grammophon, 413 361-2). The CD booklet features a photo of the conductor and composer in conversation and so we might expect a ‘closer’ reading. In the first movement, Karajan stays very close to the metronome markings, in particular the opening 96 bpm and his reading reveals a more staunch determination to counteract the gloom. The music seems here to express a desire to move forwards, to get beyond itself, but also evokes a sense of apprehension (will the future be better?) In terms of dynamic range, DG’s recording doesn’t quite compete with the current review discs, but Karajan’s pacing is impeccable.

Karajan’s third movement, like Haitink’s, comes in around the 11½-minute mark, but is much more anxious and unsettling. The anacrusis gesture after figure 113 (cellos and double basses) leads to the horn call and then a return to the past (the first movement). Prior to figure 127 the same gesture (albeit truncated) leads to the reprise of the DSCH motive (the future?), which by its eventual reiterative nature becomes oppressive. This capriciousness of the music’s destiny equates to a sentiment akin to angst and vulnerability. Between the near quote of Mahler’s horn call from Das Lied von der Erde and the reiteration of various versions of the C6 chord with which Lied ends (including the final string coda in a voicing resembling that over which the flute and piccolo intone the staccato DSCH motive) it appears that identity and dissolution are the themes at play here. The slower versions of Bychkov and Järvi capture this nervousness less well, and I find the sense of release in their finales to be less emphatic on account of it.

So, in summation, I heartily recommend the 1986 and 1977 Haitink versions. The Bychkov and Järvi have magnificent first halves but I feel less engaged by their latter halves, beautiful and cohesive as the playing undeniably is. The acoustics in Haitink’s 1986 recording favour fullness over clarity in comparison to the Bychkov and Järvi, but the intensity of the reading is all there.

The Bychkov disc closes with a three-movement work, Theatrum bestiarum (A Theatrical Bestiary) by Detlev Glanert, premiered in 2005. The opening movement is indeed bestial as its title suggests. If the reader is unfamiliar with the work or composer, then some of more bestial moments of Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth may give you some orientation as to the musical language of this first part. A pupil of Diether de la Motte and Hans Werner Henze, Glanert (born 1960) is clearly a composer with a wonderful auditory imagination. The second movement features decadent-sounding organ clusters and lazily circling woodwind lines. The final part 3 doesn’t quite achieve the level of evocation as the first two, but all in all this additional work adds to the value of this release rather than subtracting from it. On top of a very solid performance of the Shostakovich, I found this additional introduction to a new composer most welcome.

The Tormis Overture No. 2 that completes Järvi’s disc was written in 1959. Tormis studied under Shostakovich’s colleague and friend Vissarion Shebalin in Moscow in the Fifties, and met Shostakovich himself several times (the CD liner appropriates a generous amount of word space to his career and his relationship to the composer with whose music he shares this CD). Tormis is Estonian and, as the liner notes suggest, like his compatriot Arvo Pärt, seeks clarity and simplicity. The music is steeped in Estonian folkloristic influences in the tradition of Bartók and Kodály. This is a vital and enjoyable work even on a first listening and therefore helps to make this an attractive package. The playing is excellent and superbly captured.

For an avid collector, each of these releases benefits from considerable qualities that plead for recommendation. If however you are in the market for only the most complete Tenth Symphony experience, my judgement has to go with the new Haitink.

Graeme Downes

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Symphony No. 11 in G minor, opus 103, The Year 1905.
Vasily Petrenko, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

Naxos. 8.572082. DDD. TT: 57:37.
Recorded at Philharmonic hall, Liverpool, England, on 22 and 23 April 2008.

Naxos inaugurates a new Shostakovich symphonic cycle – its first in more than 15 years – with this release of the Eleventh Symphony performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under the baton of Vasily Petrenko. The conductor’s name is bound to turn heads. Petrenko, a relative newcomer to the West, is neither a household name nor a debutant. He has toured internationally and has been the principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Orchestra since September 2006. In the 1990s he held leading posts in St Petersburg, the city where he was raised and educated, and has amassed a small but respectable discography that includes Shostakovich’s Gamblers andRothschild’s Violin, both on Avie 2121, released in 2007 (reviewed in DSCH 30). In 2007 he was named in theGramophone as Young Artist of the Year.

The label’s previous Shostakovich survey, issued in 1992–1993, featured Ladislav Slovak and the Czech PO of Bratislava, who were capable of delivering moments of stunning intensity to this repertoire. Yet the generally slow-moving interpretations and less than enthusiastic reviews left a lingering gap in the Naxos catalogue (Slovak’s instalment of the Fourteenth Symphony is now and again cited as a high water mark).

Curiously overlooked was Theodore Kuchar, Naxos’s leading on-board interpreter of Soviet/Russian repertoire, whose discography includes a complete and rather handsome set of Prokofiev symphonies.

One thing that can be said about Petrenko: he takes the podium by storm. That is clearly evident from the very first bars of the Shostakovich Eleventh. In the opening movement he opts for a Palace Square on the brink of explosion. The brisk pace may sacrifice some of the weight and hypnotic aura found in other interpretations. Yet the restrained whispers of the string tremolos nevertheless invoke a fittingly oppressive pre-Revolutionary landscape. Critical to the air of coiled fury in this interpretation are the all-important instrumental solos. They make all the difference in the world, as past recordings have shown. When insufficient attention is given to them, as we find in the Järvi, Lazarev, and Schwarz editions, the entire movement suffers. In Mravinsky’s hands, the solos rise up stunningly with a passion that elicits the very soul of the Revolutionary spirit. In the DePriest/Helsinki rendition (Delos DE 3080) one discerns what might be called a valorous yearning. Berglund’s solos (EMI CDS7 47790-8) invoke a sublime spectrum of pride, caution, rage, hope, suffering. Petrenko finds yet a different complexion.

In his version the ardently sustained notes of the muted solo trumpet and French horn, and later in the boldly assertive flute duets, charge the air with restless tones of defiance. Even the timpani, as in no other performance I’ve heard, rumble like beasts rattling their cages – a fitting metaphor for the tone and temper of Petrenko’s Palace Square. The movement’s central outburst, marked with strong cross-rhythms of muted brass and percussion, erupts with exceptional ferocity. Here again, in the movement’s defining moment, the glacial scrim of tremolos is peeled back to reveal a squall of raging passions churning just beneath the surface.

In but few performances – the outstanding version of the Eleventh by Herbert Kegel and the Leipzig PO (Weitbuck SSS0039-2) is brought to mind – do we find such pointed emphasis placed on the movement’s spine-chilling extremes.

It takes a few pages for the following January 9th movement to muster steam, yet the storm that soon gathers carries the day. Some may find Petrenko’s predilection for sharp accents and surging crescendi a little melodramatic, while others will find the flashes of spontaneity thrilling. For their fine ensemble playing the Liverpool Orchestra deserve honorary membership in the Russian Revolutionary Guard, with special mention for the brass and percussion. When the stillness is shattered by the machine-gun cracks of the snare drum, Petrenko picks up the tempo with a cardiac jolt and proceeds with steadily driving momentum. The Liverpudlians deliver a sustained level of excitement throughout with thunderously roaring sonics. Listeners will rejoice at the natural spacious sound found on this recording. It’s a genuine thrill to be able to follow the panting fugue subject along a great panoramic arc around the podium as it is handed from one instrumental group to the next. One notable drawback in the sound department, however, occurs at the climactic point. Here one will find a less than ideal reproduction of the timpani’s major-minor tattoo, an essential entry, if there ever were one, as it tops off one of the symphony’s dramatic plateaus. Some of the thrill of the moment is thus shed in a performance that otherwise captures the score’s blistering agitation. The collaboration between conductor and sound engineer in this key passage has nowhere been more perfectly matched than in the classic Kyrill Kondrashin recording (Melodiya CD 74321 19843-2). There, the percussion section rings in with the utmost clarity, with what sounds like a separate microphone/audio channel dedicated to each of the participating instruments. The result is a sound image that may be somewhat contrived, yet at the same time it is one that captures the excitement of the moment in every detail.

In the In Memoriam movement, Petrenko shows us that the outer sections, based on the folksong You Fell as Victims, do not necessarily go hand-in-hand with the weighted sorrow preferred by other conductors. He instead summons a poetry of strolling motion and, one might say, ephemerality (though some may hear it as detachment), as if to commemorate events in the past tense. It is a strategy of contrast that has never been tried in exactly the same way: the full release of emotions, now somewhat distant and subdued, is reserved for the brawny central section. At the onset of the B section, Petrenko markedly slows the pace, as if to stand music and listener at attention. The moment seized, he builds with beautifully escalating dynamics, withholding the most forceful volume until the shattering peak passage. And then it arrives, the Bare Your Heads motto theme, in deep heaving breaths, and with such monumental agonising that it will unstop the driest of tear ducts. The return to the quietly strolling mood of the first section closes the movement with dignified understatement.

Petrenko’s fondness for sharp accents yields especially vigorous results in the finale. The tempo is brisk, the energy never flags, the mood is celebratory with a vengeance. Petrenko suspends the barely held back enthusiasm to give a wide berth to the finely delivered English horn solo. Notably this is a performance in which the chimes are allowed to resonate, here for approximately 18 seconds, beyond the score’s final bars. Purists will gawk. Yet given the symbolism of the gesture as an enduring reminder of the struggle for freedom, and given that a number of conductors (e.g., Berglund, Stokowski, Rostropovich twice) have already taken the liberty, the lingering chime tones sound as right as rain. They provide a gratifying finish to this energetic and heartfelt performance of the Eleventh. My complaint, however, again is with the otherwise admirable engineering. In the final passages the chimes are unfortunately reduced to ornamental status as their image plays hide and seek with the rest of the orchestra. We are deprived of hearing even a single clear utterance of the instrument’s insistently repeating major-minor tattoo. It seems at cross-purposes to accord the chimes such poetic prominence in the finale’s aftermath while half burying their equally if not more important motto theme in the very preceding pages.

Quibbles aside, Petrenko emerges as a fresh voice in the interpretation of this repertoire. Here we have an exciting rendition of the Shostakovich Eleventh and a promising first instalment of the complete cycle.

Louis Blois