- Symphony No. 8 in C minor, Op. 65 (Stalingrad)
The works of Dmitry Shostakovich were written to serve an amazingly broad spectrum of purposes from overt patriotism to concealed (and at times obvious) anti-Stalinist sentiments and everything in between. The "Seventh" and "Eighth" symphonies possess no subterfuge, but vary greatly in emotional message. The "Seventh" was written in direct response to the German invasion of Russia and is filled with patriotic sentiment aimed at the notion that the mighty Russian army would expel its invaders. More than two years later, the German incursion continued and the optimistic outlook of the "Seventh Symphony" had long sense faded. The "Eighth Symphony," heard here in this recording by Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony, still points to the desire of the Russian people to free themselves from Germany's atrocities, but has a decidedly bleak, somber, and almost pessimistic mood. To that end, Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony do a remarkable job of capturing moments of stillness and breathlessness in quiet, slow, and thinly scored passages; the English horn solo of the first movement in particular makes time almost appear to stand still. The more aggressive, driven sections of the symphony, however, are a bit lacking in regimented, militaristic precision. This soft-around-the-edges interpretation of Shostakovich may not sit well with some listeners who prefer crisp, clean, and unwaveringly accurate articulations.