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CD Review

Dmitri Shostakovich

Symphony #14, Op. 135

Gal James, soprano
Alexander Vinogradov, baritone
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
Naxos 8.573132
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Like most of the works of Dmitri Shostakovich, the Symphony #14 has not lacked for champions and excellent recordings on disc. Still, even in exalted company, the achievements of Vasily Petrenko and his Liverpool forces have been met with near universal praise. This is no exception, a recording of the highest artistic distinction and quality. At 49 minutes and change, this may look like it represents poor value, but so harrowing and emotionally intense is the experience that a coupling isn't needed.

The classic Rostropovich recording on Warner Classics is still a mandatory acquisition for fans of the composer, but this reading proves a worthy successor. Caught in spectacular sound, this is relentlessly gripping all the way through. Soloists Gal James and Alexander Vinogradov are nothing short of fantastic, throwing themselves fully into the text and bringing it to life. They are young, emotional, and engaging. In Vasily Petrenko, we have a man who is arguably the greatest conductor of this music active today. The amazing amount of effort that has gone into making this Liverpool band such an idiomatic force in this repertoire is mind-blowing. Nobody in the Commonwealth comes close to this rich, heavy, and gritty sound. It's that good.

This Shostakovich cycle may very well become the crowning jewel of the decade for Naxos, and they and the artists deserve tremendous credit for the consistent excellence on display. God knows when the company will finish the cycle, and if they'll choose to box it up in my lifetime. But that's their problem, not yours, and you should snap this up as soon as you can. Along with Rostropovich, you might not need any other recording. Unquestionably superb.

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman