15 January 2013

The Op.47 among the Liverpudlians

On revisiting Vasily Petrenko's recording of the Shostakovich Fifth, I must say that, actually, it strikes me overall as excellent.

There are a number of places where Petrenko takes a markedly deliberate tack. The first this becomes apparent, is the start of the development of the first movement — and in this case, the result is not entirely successful . . . there is some hesitancy/uncertainty in the band, I think, and it comes off sounding almost like a false step. This does not last long, as there are stepped accelerandi through the ensuing passage, and the band regains its footing.

Now, it seems to me that an 'unforgiving' listener may be apt to judge the later instances of tempi which feel slower than one may be accustomed to, as 'equally unsuccessful'; but actually, I think they all carry well.

As to the mixed (or negative) reviews, this is my take:

1) For some, there are 'classic' recordings which 'define' the symphony, for them. To these, Petrenko's 'deviations' from their 'standard text' of the piece, will be unpardonable misdemeanors.

2) That aside, there are near-flawless 'classic' recordings of the piece, and the fact that there is this one mis-step is an easy 'disqualification'.

To my ears, though, apart from a few seconds of wishing that the transition had been better secured before the performance, this is a genuinely fine account of the piece. The Largo particularly, and the tension in the coda of the last movement, I think are successes that more than justify the risk-taking.

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