DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH: SYMPHONY NO. 10
Andris Nelsons/Boston Symphony Orchestra
When it comes to Shostakovich, the BSO doesn’t have much of a track record. New music director Andris Nelsons is about to change that. This Deutsche Grammophon release of a performance recorded live at Symphony Hall last April is the first installment of a series that will embrace, at the very least, Symphonies Nos. 5 through 10.
Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony got its premiere in 1953, with Evgeny Mravinsky and the Leningrad Philharmonic. Mravinsky’s ferocious 1976 recording with that orchestra is taut and visceral, with touches of hysteria and paranoia. Nelsons takes a different path; his reading, more than eight minutes slower, is a dark star that makes the work seem a cousin to Mahler’s Tenth Symphony. Shot through with rich harmonies, the stoic first movement reflects moodily on postwar Soviet Russia, and if the climaxes lack shattering power, they compensate with clarity and complexity. The brief second movement sports crisp snare drum and juggernaut brass; the third-movement nocturne has a minuet-like grace. In the finale, the brass bring the frenetic scurrying to a halt by blasting out the composer’s D-S-C-H motto as if it were the “Dies irae” and he were about to pass judgment.
The disc is rounded out by a powerful rendition of the Passacaglia from Act 2 of the 1934 opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.” Never sour or sarcastic, but hardly soft or sunny, either, this is Shostakovich for the long run. The composer could not be in better hands.
JEFFREY GANTZJeffrey Gantz can be reached at email@example.com.