- Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47
- Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93
Finding a good recording of either Shostakovich's "Symphony No. 5" or his "Symphony No. 10" is certainly no difficulty. Indeed, the market is saturated with recordings of every type imaginable, including the crass and gritty Soviet recordings of yesteryear; Bernstein's "Fifth," which gives excess new meaning; and Herbert von Karajan's classic account of the "Tenth." Featured here is yet another album that can be added to that long list. In these 1990 recordings, Polish conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski leads the Hallé Orchestra, based in Manchester, England. An experienced conductor whose name sometimes draws a question mark (both in pronunciation and reputation), Skrowaczewski served as the Minnesota Orchestra's music director for two decades beginning in 1960 before moving on to the Hallé in 1983. In the mid-'90s, he recorded a set of Bruckner symphonies to critical acclaim with the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra in Germany, helping cement his reputation. Both of Skrowaczewski's achievements stand out because, unlike much of the competition that places frenzied emotion (just look at the hair-raising poses on a few of the album covers) before intellect, his renditions do not fit this popular mold. Extremely well thought-out, they not only contain Shostakovich's turbulent emotion, but show striking nuance and detail as well. Skrowaczewski's ease with large forms seems clear in his sense of musical architecture, goals, and pacing. His performance of the "Symphony No. 5" is truly riveting and fares slightly better than the more technically challenging "Tenth," where the Hallé players encounter a little more difficulty. Nonetheless, both accounts are dramatic and incisive, with special recognition due to the outstanding woodwind playing on Shostakovich's exceedingly nasty high runs. Skrowaczewski's care with the details reveals itself best in the first two movements of the "Fifth," where he balances several passages in unusual ways that allow some hidden gems to shine through these otherwise dark and foreboding works. Although these recordings were previously available as individual discs on the Pickwick label, those recordings have now been repacked as this double-disc set that also contains some (extremely limited) enhanced-CD features for properly equipped PCs. Both Shostakovich newcomers and experienced veterans will enjoy these carefully crafted, energetic performances.