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Shostakovich: Chamber Symphony

Scottish Ensemble

Shostakovich: Chamber Symphony

...emotionally gripping
BKD 095 (Linn Records)
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$20.00

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FLAC 16bit 44.1kHz 208.6MB $13.00

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ALAC 16bit 44.1kHz 214.5MB $13.00

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MP3 320k 44.1kHz 126.4MB $11.00
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Tracks: Listen and Download

Format
Track Time Listen
1
Chamber Symphony in C minor, Op. 110a: I. Largo

Chamber Symphony in C minor, Op. 110a: I. Largo

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor Clio Gould
Band Scottish Ensemble
5:22 Play $3.40
2
Chamber Symphony in C minor, Op. 110a: II. Allegro molto

Chamber Symphony in C minor, Op. 110a: II. Allegro molto

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor Clio Gould
Band Scottish Ensemble
2:45 Play $1.70
3
Chamber Symphony in C minor, Op. 110a: III. Allegretto

Chamber Symphony in C minor, Op. 110a: III. Allegretto

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor Clio Gould
Band Scottish Ensemble
4:38 Play $1.70
4
Chamber Symphony in C minor, Op. 110a: IV. Largo

Chamber Symphony in C minor, Op. 110a: IV. Largo

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor Clio Gould
Band Scottish Ensemble
5:38 Play $3.40
5
Chamber Symphony in C minor, Op. 110a: V. Largo

Chamber Symphony in C minor, Op. 110a: V. Largo

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor Clio Gould
Band Scottish Ensemble
4:18 Play $1.70
6
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor for piano, trumpet and strings, Op. 35: I. Allegro moderato

Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor for piano, trumpet and strings, Op. 35: I. Allegro moderato

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor Clio Gould
Soloist John Wallace - trumpet, Sophia Rahman - piano
Band Scottish Ensemble
5:56 Play $3.40
7
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor for piano, trumpet and strings, Op. 35: II. Lento

Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor for piano, trumpet and strings, Op. 35: II. Lento

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor Clio Gould
Soloist John Wallace - trumpet, Sophia Rahman - piano
Band Scottish Ensemble
7:50 Play $3.40
8
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor for piano, trumpet and strings, Op. 35: III. Moderato

Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor for piano, trumpet and strings, Op. 35: III. Moderato

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor Clio Gould
Soloist John Wallace - trumpet, Sophia Rahman - piano
Band Scottish Ensemble
1:34 Play $1.70
9
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor for piano, trumpet and strings, Op. 35: IV. Allegro con brio

Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor for piano, trumpet and strings, Op. 35: IV. Allegro con brio

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor Clio Gould
Soloist John Wallace - trumpet, Sophia Rahman - piano
Band Scottish Ensemble
7:00 Play $3.40
10
Two pieces for string octet, Op. 11: No. 1. Prelude. Adagio

Two pieces for string octet, Op. 11: No. 1. Prelude. Adagio

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor Clio Gould
Band Scottish Ensemble
5:43 Play $3.40
11
Two pieces for string octet, Op. 11: No. 2. Scherzo. Allegro molto

Two pieces for string octet, Op. 11: No. 2. Scherzo. Allegro molto

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor Clio Gould
Band Scottish Ensemble
4:30 Play $1.70
Total Running Time 55 minutes Purchase all tracks 
$13.00 
Prices shown in US Dollars

In a passionate and emotionally gripping recording, Scottish Ensemble performs Shostakovich’s deeply personal Chamber Symphony.

Originally released in 2000 Shostakovich: Chamber Symphony has been re-issued as part of Linn’s ECHO series which offers a second chance to enjoy the best of the label’s award-winning catalogue.

Download includes - cover art, inlay, booklet

It would be difficult to think of an ensemble better suited to Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony.’ The Times

The quality of the string playing throughout is outstanding: admirably expressive, fearlessly virtuosic and surprisingly full-toned.’ The Strad

The Piano Concerto, too, is full of detail and deftness. The trumpet obbligato is rattled off with dry wit by John Wallace.’ Daily Telegraph

This is the premiere recording of a transcription by Rudolf Barshai of the composer’s monument to ‘the victims of fascism and war’. The Chamber Symphony is a gripping portrayal of the brutality of conflict. Its jagged, dynamic rhythms in the central sections are contrasted by elegiac outer movements that never fail to move the listener.

In contrast the Piano Concerto is one of the most exuberant examples of Shostakovich’s wonderfully subversive sense of humour. Sophia Rahman and John Wallace are the highly accomplished soloists who excel in this repertoire. The programme concludes with the rarely heard Two pieces for string octet which includes the feverishly brilliant Scherzo.

Booklet notes:

In September 1960, the 54-year-old Dmitri Shostakovich sprang one of the biggest surprises of his career: he applied to join the Communist Party. The decision shocked and mystified many of his colleagues. Why, after holding out for so long, should he suddenly throw in the towel now? Through all the terrible years of the Stalin dictatorship he had held onto the last shred of independence. But in 1960 Stalin was long dead: his ‘mistakes’ were – up to a point – openly discussed. The regime of the new Chairman, Nikita Khrushchev, was less oppressive. A strange time to cave in.

But the pressures on Shostakovich were immense. Khrushchev was anxious to gain support from leading members of the Soviet intelligentsia. It would have been a major coup for him to persuade an artist of the stature of Shostakovich to join the Party – a public endorsement of his policies and achievements that would impress the world. One can imagine how hard the screw must have been turned. Eventually Shostakovich consented, but privately the decision cost him dearly. And it may well be that the Eighth Quartet (the ‘original’ of the Chamber Symphony recorded here) contains a musical testimony to his inner struggles at that time.

Shostakovich wrote the Eighth Quartet during a visit to East Germany in July 1960. When it first appeared there was talk of a programme: the Quartet had been inspired by the composer’s feelings of horror at the scale of the wartime destruction in Dresden. It was (we were told), dedicated to the victims of war and fascism – hence the quotation of the ‘Jewish’ theme from Shostakovich’s Second Piano Trio in the Quartet’s turbulent second movement. The eerie long-held pianissimo violin note at the beginning of the fourth movement was compared to the distant drone of a bomber aircraft. Certainly there was no mistaking the tone of personal grief in the final ‘Largo’. A few questions remained: for example, why were there so many quotations from Shostakovich’s own works? And what was the significance of the four-note motif, D, E flat, C, B (in German notation D, Ess, C, H – ie Shostakovich’s own initials) which haunted all five movements? Still, for a while, the ‘war and fascism’ programme stuck.

Then in 1979, four years after the composer’s death, came another shock – the publication, in the West, of what purported to be Shostakovich’s memoirs, Testimony (as dedicated to and edited by his friend Solomon Volkov). Tone and content were revelatory: bitter and tormented, this Shostakovich was at pains to distance his major works from the official, Soviet interpretations that had clung to them, in some cases for decades. The remarks on the Eighth Quartet, though brief, were telling. ‘When I wrote the Eighth Quartet, it was also assigned to the department of “exposing fascism”. You have to be blind to do that, because everything in the quartet is as clear as a primer. I quote (the opera) Lady Macbeth, the First and Fifth Symphonies. What does fascism have to do with these? The Eighth is an autobiographical quartet, it quotes a song known to all Russians: “Exhausted by the hardships of prison”.’

Eventually confirmation came from other sources. In a letter to his friend Isaak Glickman, Shostakovich wrote that, ‘When I die, it’s hardly likely that someone will write a quartet dedicated to my memory. So I decided to write it myself. One could almost write on the frontispiece, “Dedicated to the author of this quartet”.’ Another friend , Lev Lebedinsky, remembered what Shostakovich told him when the composer played him the Eighth Quartet just after his return from Dresden. The dedication to the victims of fascism was, said Lebedinsky, a ‘disguise...although, as he considered himself the victim of a fascist regime, the dedication was apt. In fact...it was his farewell to life. He associated joining the Party with a moral, as well as a physical death.’ As soon as he returned from Dresden, Lebedinsky tells us, Shostakovich bought a large number of sleeping pills. ‘He played the Eighth Quartet to me on the piano and told me with tears in his eyes that it was his last work.’ Lebedinsky managed to steal the pills and alerted the composer’s son. Maxim. ‘During the next few days I spent as much time as possible with Shostakovich until I felt the danger of suicide had passed.’

It all rings horribly true. There is nothing like the thought of imminent death to make a man look back over his life’s achievements – like Bruckner in the ‘Farewell to Life’ slow movement of his Ninth Symphony or W.B. Yeats in his death-obsessed poem The Man and the Echo. Nor can there be any mistaking the tone of private grief that saturates the Eighth Quartet, or the aching nostalgia when the fourth movement quotes the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (high cello). The D.S.C.H. motif is at last left to brood alone.

The contrast between the Eighth Quartet and the Concerto for piano, trumpet and strings (also known as ‘Piano Concerto No. 1’) could hardly be more extreme. Glickman remembered the premiere, in 1933, as a ‘joyful occasion’ – at which the composer himself, at the piano, played ‘exquisitely’. The Concerto is one of the most exuberant examples of Shostakovich’s wonderfully subversive sense of humour – an ability to, as nit were, pull the rug out from under the listener’s feet which, amazingly, never quite left him. It still sparkles amid prevailing darkness in his last symphony, No. 15 (1971), and there is even a ghostly flicker in the elegiac closing pages of his final work, the Viola Sonata (1975).

There is no mistaking the insolent, nose-thumbing tone of the Concerto’s opening gesture (piano and trumpet), and the seemingly solemn tone of the piano’s first theme is far from convincing. By the time the trumpet enters again, all pretence of earnestness has been thrown out of the window. The following ‘Lento’ affects a wistful tone at first (strings), but this too is gently deflated by the piano. After a short ‘Moderato’ introduction (semi-serious again), havoc breaks loose in the finale – virtuoso grotesque humour abounds, right through to the trumpet’s brainless fanfares at the end. The unrelieved tragedy of the Eighth Quartet seems impossibly remote – though some listeners may detect a nervousness behind the finale’s manic capering. Just how ‘joyous’ is this music?

The Two pieces For string octet (1924-5), subtitled ‘Prelude’ and ‘Scherzo’, were written while Shostakovich was still a student at the Leningrad Conservatory – at about the same time as the composer was working on his astonishingly precocious First Symphony. At the time, Shostakovich told a friend that the Two pieces, and particularly the ‘Scherzo’, were a sign that he was ‘becoming more of a modernist’ – a remark which may have been intended to be taken with a grain or two of salt. They certainly show that he was becoming much more confident, and in the feverishly brilliant ‘Scherzo’ one may hear the pre-echoes of greater things to come – including, the ‘Allegro molto’ second movement of the Eighth Quartet. © Stephen Johnson


Recording information:

Recorded at City Halls, Glasgow, UK on 4 5 March 1998
Recorded by Philip Hobbs
Post production by Julia Thomas
Produced by Andrew Keener
Design by gmtoucari.com  

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The Strad
The quality of the string playing throughout is outstanding: admirably expressive, fearlessly virtuosic and surprisingly full-toned.
more >>

Daily Telegraph
An intense recording
more >>

The Times
...it would be difficult to think of an ensemble better suited to Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony...
more >>

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