The Fourth is considered as one of the most powerful of Shostakovich symphonies and this magnificent new recording by Mariss Jansons certainly adds fuel to that assumption. Written in the dark years of Stalinist oppression and coming to light almost twenty years after its composition, the symphony has now established quite a firm foothold on the standard repertoire.
Jansons finds much mystery and brooding in the first movement, which is marked Allegretto poco moderato although Kondrashin and Barshai have gone to the heart of this movement in previous recordings. EMI has provided quite a splendid sound stage for Jansons and the BRSO attack the work almost to the manner born. The short Moderato con moto is also well paced although the last tinge of abandon is absent.
The real heart of the work is its finale that begins with a palpably painful Largo followed by an Allegro of epic proportions. Here, Jansons takes supreme command and like directing his troops from the battlefield, he turns out a splendid and superb account that ranks with the very best available. I recently acquired a copy of Herbert Kegel's well drilled account with the Leipzig Radio Symphony on Weitblick and this has definitely added to my perceptions of the work with Jansons now also among the greats.
There are several recordings of the Fourth now available so the chance is that you will already have acquired it. However, seasoned admirers of Shostakovich should certainly investigate this new Jansons version that ranks among the very best on offer and in splendid sound too.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech