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This is the seventh disc in Mark Wigglesworth’s complete cycle of Shostakovich’s symphonies and the fourth to feature the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. This partnership has gone from strength to strength, with their Symphony No. 13 (‘Babi Yar’) described as ‘probably the most convincing to have appeared in the West’ in International Record Review, and the coupling of Symphonies Nos 9 and 12 being designated a benchmark recording in BBC Music Magazine.
They now take on this huge work – it calls for an orchestra of 125 musicians and lasts well over an hour.
When Shostakovich began working on Symphony No.4, his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk had been a sensational success and the composer was the musical golden child of the Soviet Union. However, after Stalin himself went to see the opera, the newspaper Pravda described the musician as an enemy of the state. Suddenly Shostakovich's life was turned upside down, but he remained unbowed – much later in life he is reported as having said: ‘Instead of repenting I composed my Fourth Symphony.’
Dmitry Shostakovich: Symphony No. 4 in C minor, Op. 43
I. Allegretto poco moderato - Presto
II. Moderato con moto
III. Largo - Allegro
18th July 2009
“No elbow jabs, no foaming at the mouth, but an inexorable procession of nightmare, grim jest and desolation, brilliantly played by the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra.”
“Everything is humanised, so that the conflict of the Finale is a whirlwind battle rather than a grinding mechanism, and even the circus ditties before the final storm have charm as well as nuance. The end is as mesmerising as it can be, raising unmistakeable parallels with the fading heartbeat of Tchaikovsky's Pathétique.”
“a performance of the Fourth that makes a terrific impact”