Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 14by Simon Rattle
It's hard to discuss Shostakovich's 14th Symphony without making it sound deeply morbid: It is, after all, a cycle of 11 songs about death. It's also -- partly because of the grim subject matter -- one of the composer's most powerful works and, arguably, a key for understanding his music in general. For this recording, taken from live performances with the Berlin Philharmonic, Simon Rattle has chosen an ideal pair of vocal soloists -- a team whose appeal should induce many listeners to become acquainted with this gripping work. Karita Mattila's voice is poignantly luminous in the soprano arias, where many other interpreters have adopted a more strident edge, and in the movements for bass solo, the intensity of Thomas Quasthoff's performance is a natural fit with the music's deep emotions, reaching a high point in the elegiac "O Delvig, Delvig!" The orchestra's contribution matches the soloists' in every respect, and the recorded sound captures countless details of the score, highlighting the rich beauty of the string solos and the harsh aggression of the percussion. A new benchmark for recordings of the 14th Symphony, this specially priced two-disc set also offers Shostakovich's exuberantly youthful 1st Symphony in an equally potent concert performance.
- Release Date:
- Warner Classics
- Symphony No. 14 for soprano, bass, strings & percussion, Op. 135 - Dmitry Shostakovich - Guillaume Apollinaire - Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra - Wilhelm Kuchelbecker - Federico García Lorca - Karita Mattila - Thomas Quasthoff - Simon Rattle - Rainer Maria Rilke - Kamil Tchalaev - Valeria Vlazinskaya - M. Kudinov - Ulrike Patow - L. Geleskula - T. Silman - I. Tynyanova
- Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 10 - Dmitry Shostakovich - Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra - Simon Rattle
Performance CreditsSimon Rattle Primary Artist
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With broad consensus at their disposal, modern secularists keep trying to tell us that they have something to say about death-- something more conclusive than Christianity. The collection of poems set to music in Shostakovich's Symphony No. 14 expresses this motive. Rather than offer philosophical demonstration, these cultural works are supposed to represent authoritative response-- perceptions without explanation. The slow pace and stifled passion of "Le Suicide" sets up a foil to the percussive and clever "On Watch," which is followed by the companion poem "Madam, look!" But what do these two poems by Guillaume Apollinaire have to offer? The standard dog-in-the-manger observation that war is always inglorious because conventional people believe otherwise. Shostakovich's symphonies cover the ground from heroism to elegy to satire. Symphony No. 1 provides all three, starting with cutesy-poo satire of the 1920s anti-romantic sort in the first two movements, then elegiac sorrow in the slow third and ending with some degree of heroism in the fourth. Symphony No. 14 is naturally elegiac, given its stated theme. "In the Santa Prison" is brilliantly ponderous. The eighth number "The Zaporozhian Cossacks' reply to the Sultan of Constantinople" is a nifty piece of invective. It reminds me of Edward Albee's uproarious verbal assault on his landlady in The American Dream or one of those plays. Rilke's "Death of the Poet" is too sophisticated for my taste. It expresses the sort of grief that verges on the inarticulate. But Shostakovich is such a brilliant composer that he can keep even sophistication from sounding foolish. The culture that dictated this symphony unites to confess that "We don't have all the answers"--which really means that it doesn't have any.