This is a solid, ultimately compelling Shostakovich 8th, but not quite on the level of the Kondrashin/Melodiya, Previn/EMI, Litton/Delos and perhaps several others. This opening assessment may sound as though I'm damning this recording with faint praise, but, really, it's quite a fine offering. And considering the fact that the Kondrashin is apparently no longer available, and the Previn and Litton recordings are only marginally superior, this one suddenly becomes a desirable alternative.
Petrenko presents a ponderous first movement (Adagio – Allegro non troppo), taking a few minutes before developing the necessary intensity and darkness to bring off the music properly. The first Scherzo (Allegretto) is quite spirited and brilliantly played, as is the following, more warlike one (Allegro non troppo). But here the climax lacks a little punch, owing to somewhat reticent timpani. The ensuing passacaglia (Largo) is brooding and dark, quite convincing and well played. The finale (Allegretto) is appropriately ghostly and menacing. All in all then, this is a well-conceived and well-executed rendition of this great Shostakovich symphony.
The Naxos sound reproduction is excellent and the notes, by Richard Whitehouse, very informative. This issue is part of a complete cycle of Shostakovich symphonies by Petrenko, Nos. 5 & 9, and 11 having already been released. In general Petrenko has received positive reviews in this heavily traversed repertory, and this very fine effort of the 8th will undoubtedly draw accolades. Recommended.
Copyright © 2010, Robert Cummings.