Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony remains one of his most massive and is also an emotional masterpiece describing the horrors and terrible privations of the epic 900-day Siege of Leningrad in the bitter war years. Roman Kofman and his admirable Beethoven Orchestra of Bonn have already given us fine accounts of the 1st, 5th, 6th and 9th symphonies so I pushed this CD into my player with some anticipation.
And I was definitely not disappointed. After the somewhat erathbound glitziness of Valery Gergiev's account with the Kirov Orchestra, Kofman cuts deep into the heart of the matter with an almost Mravinsky like intensity. The massive opening Allegretto plods along at a slow yet firm pace, creating an atmosphere of hallowed intensity and almost palpable tension. I also enjoyed the lift that comes out of the Moderato, here I was struck by the similarities in Kofman's choice of tempi when compared with the BIS recording of Mark Wigglesworth conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales issued a few years ago.
The heart of this gigantic symphony remains the Adagio and here, Kofman definitely does not disappoint. He shapes the misty reams of the tortured music with an uncanny feeling for the composer's spiritual descriptions and the result is an interpretation of shattering power. The easing into the glorious Finale is also excellent and as we move towards the inexorable climax, the orchestra senses this great moment, almost repaying their debt to the Russian tragedy of sixty years ealier. MD&G's recording is truthful and finely balanced whilst the detailed notes focus on the historical and programmatic aspect of this seminal work. Those who are collecting Kofman's cycle will obviously snap this up but newcomers to this great symphony could do far worse than choose this wholly excellent issue.
Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech