The Shostakovich cycle by Roman Kofman and the Beethoven Orchestra of Bonn is drawing to a close with only the 3rd, 14th and 15th left to be issued. It has been a slightly variable cycle but has had its fine achievements especially in the 12th and 7th and this new 4th can also be looked upon very favourably.
This is certainly one of the most enigmatic of Shostakovich's symphonies having had a rather overlong cooling period when the composer fell out of favour. As such, it has been overlooked in favour of other more popular works such as the 5th the 7th and the 8th not to mention the later 11th and 13th, "Babi Yar" which also suffered some sort of negative reaction. Kofman sets about his task with fine rigidity and does not dwell effusively on certain niceties, giving the music as rawly-conceived as possible. His Bonn orchestra have now completely accustomed themselves to the Russian orchestral idiom and play quite dazzlingly especially in the taut and massive opening movement.
The two inner movements are shortish by comparison but Kofman does not let them off in a hurry especially the mystical Largo which contains some lovely themes. We are then back to the motor driven efficiency of the First Movement in the Finale which sails along in triumphant fashion, very much recalling Kondrashin and his fine pioneering account of this great symphony which brought the work out from the cold in the early 1960's.
Yet again, MD&G has done a superb job in the recording which sounds astonishingly vivid especially in its SACD version. This is certainly a recording of the 4th to be ranked alongside the very best. The exhaustive notes by Iosif Raiskin are definitely essential reading and are an indispensable complement to a fine recording.
Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech