- Adagio for strings (or string quartet; arr. from 2nd mvt. of String Quartet), Op. 11
- Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47
20.91 In Stock
The performance of Shostakovich's "Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47," heard here was recorded in 2013 but not released until 2017. Kudos to whoever kept applying the pressure, for it's an excellent contribution to the Shostakovich discography, even in the face of all the other versions of this work on the market. The booklet contains notes, apparently by Pittsburgh Symphony conductor Manfred Honeck himself; they needed a once-over from an editor or proofreader, but they offer insight into Honeck's approach to the work. The "Symphony No. 5," entitled "A Soviet Artist's Response to Justified Criticism," was written after the composer's earlier, more progressive style was denounced by Soviet cultural apparatchiks. Plenty of pixels have been devoted to explicating the composer's state of mind in this situation, and how it was reflected in the music, but Honeck simplifies the issue somewhat: he points out that the natural place to turn for Shostakovich in this situation was to the music of Mahler, whose works were not conservative but did satisfy his critics' demand for conventional tonality. Once you look at the "Fifth" this way, Mahler seems to be all over it, from the smallest details to the grand scale of the opening movement with its beautifully worked out brass and wind passages to its vast large-scale contrasts. Sample this movement in the masterful, deliberate, but never plodding performance by Honeck, with the Pittsburgh brasses sounding as good as they have in years. The Barber "Adagio for Strings" is an inspired note on which to bring down the curtain, casting the tumult of the Shostakovich into a calm but tragic frame. The team that recorded the work claims long experience in the recording's venue, Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall, and the experience shows: the sound here is among the finest encountered on the new crop of independently released symphony orchestra recordings. Highly recommended.