London Symphony Orchestra
While by no means a great performance of Shostakovich's Eighth Symphony, this October 1979 recording with Evgeny Svetlanov leading the London Symphony Orchestra is still worth hearing by fans of the work. Although not in the same league as the iron-fisted Mravinsky or the warm-hearted Kondrashin, Svetlanov was the Soviet conductor who was always most acutely mindful of the Russian Imperialist roots of Soviet Realist music. In this live recording, Svetlanov's interpretation brings to mind Borodin in its epic scale, Rimsky-Korsakov in its glittering colors, and Tchaikovsky in its hysterical climaxes. Of course, the unaccented playing of the virtuosic London Symphony Orchestra only enhances Svetlanov's approach. Its cool, clear tone; tight, hard ensemble; and firm, fast rhythm make the music sound less of its time and thus more of its place. Some might say that Svetlanov's interpretation overemphasizes Shostakovich's least-striking characteristics - should an interpretation of a symphony meant to honor the 20 million Russian dead of the Great Patriotic War be described as glittering and hysterical? - but it is still worth hearing the music this way if only to set the interpretations of Mravinsky and Kondrashin in context. BBC Music's live sound is dim, gray, and angry.
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"I Am One Of The Last Romantics"
The conductor Evgeny Svetlanov was born in Moscow in 1928 into a theatrical family. His parents were both members of the Bolshoi company, and some of his earliest memories were of appearing on the stage of this great theatre. He entered the Gnesin Institute for musically gifted children, where he studied composition with Mikhail Gnesin himself, and piano with Mariya Gurvich, a pupil of Nikolai Medtner. In 1951 he graduated from the Institute and progressed to the Moscow Conservatory, where he continued to study the piano with Heinrich Neuhaus, composition with Yuri Shaporin and conducting with Alexander Gauk. While still a student he began his conducting career in 1953 with the All-Union Radio Orchestra and at the Bolshoi Theatre. He became the Bolshoi's chief conductor in 1962, but two years later, following a successful tour of the company to La Scala, Milan, he was summarily dismissed by the Minister for Culture. Svetlanov soon returned to a significant musical position with his appointment in 1965 as chief conductor of the USSR State Symphony Orchestra, which Valery Gergiev described under him as being "an orchestra with a voice". From 1970 onwards he started to conduct in the West. With the advent of perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet system during the late 1980s. the Russian musical environment changed radically. Both Svetlanov and many of his players took up positions in Europe. Eventually, in 2000, he was once again relieved of his state position, but he continued to work as a welcome guest in the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Japan. He died in 2002 shortly after conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London in a memorable account of Rachmaninov's cantata The Bells.
Evgeny Svetlanov was a highly professional and disciplined musician. As a composer he looked back to the world of Rachmaninov, whom he revered. He had no illusions as to his own musical character: "In music, I am conservative. Apparently, I am one of the last romantics. I want to have my soul, not only my head, involved in the music I perform. 'The conductor whom Svetlanov revered most was another legendary former chief of the Bolshoi Theatre, Nikolai Golovanov. From him he learned how to energize audiences and to work them up to a state of ecstasy. Both were masters at the careful shaping of music and the creation of overwhelming climaxes, with an especially visceral style of playing.
From the perspective of the orchestral player Svetlanov could be particular about details, but in general he said little. His own comments about his conducting are revealing: "When at the conductor's stand, I speak very Iittle ... The ideal conductor is a dumb one but, surely, not a deaf one." His repertoire was large. In addition to the full range of Russian orchestral music, he was a masterly conductor of non-Russian composers of the late Romantic era such as Bruckner, Mahler and Elgar, drawing out the drama inherent within their music through masterly structural control, saturated string tone and overwhelming brass playing.
During the period of this performance of Shostakovich's Eighth Symphony, Svetlanov was a regular guest conductor in London with both the Philharmonia and London Symphony orchestras. Critics of his concerts at the time were clear in their praise of his virtues as a conductor Writing in The Times of a concert with the LSO given during February 1978 at the Royal Festival Hall, Joan Chissell commented upon his"panache [and] authority" and vividly described a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade in which "Mr Svetlanov's clear-cut beat and the strong voltage behind it drew playing of great vividness from every department of the orchestra. Nor was anything over-driven by him on this occasion. Melody was allowed time to breathe and blossom and there was splendid breadth."
The players of the orchestra must have been in agreement with this verdict: Svetlanov was appointed principal guest conductor of the LSO from 1979. As can be heard in this recording of Shostakovich's monumental Symphony No. 8, from a concert given in the Festival Hall on 30 October of that year, the partnership between orchestra and conductor was extremely successful. Writing in The Daily Telegraph the day after this concert - the first which Svetlanov gave with the orchestra in his new position - Nicholas Kenyon highlighted the "massive authority" with which the symphony's first three movements were realized and the "profound impression" made by the fourth movement During the summer of 1943 Shostakovich stayed at the Composers' Retreat at Ivanovo, northeast of Moscow, and there in the short space of two months he composed the Eighth Symphony. While writing it. he showed parts of the score to the conductor Yevgeny Mravinsky. Greatly impressed, Mravinsky promised to give the first performance, which he did that year in Moscow on 4 November Grateful for the conductor's sensitive handling of the symphony in rehearsal, Shostakovich dedicated it to him.
After the initial trauma of the German invasion of Russia - and the defiant gestures it provoked in Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony, the "Leningrad" -the tide of war was beginning to turn in favour of Russia by 1943.The Soviet authorities were therefore expecting Shostakovich's next symphony to reflect the changes in the country's fortunes. The profound pessimism of the Eighth did not please, and its official reception was cool.
The symphony rapidly vanished from the repertoire, only to be revived in the 1960s, towards the end of the composer's life. Nowadays it is regarded as one of Shostakovich's finest achievements and has given rise to varied interpretations: requiem for those who died during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s or a memorial to those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi retreat, so vividly described during 1943 by the Russian press. Whatever its meaning or inspiration, this work's immense communicative power cannot be denied.
The long opening movement, like that of the Fifth Symphony, begins with a motto played on the strings which pervades the entire symphony. This is followed by two further themes and then a savage development section. The second movement is a deliberately coarse and heavily scored march/scherzo. Various attempts at merriment are suppressed and transformed into irony and bitterness. In the third movement the human character of the music gives way to even greater mechanistic expression. The music is restless, suggesting the "war machine" in all its most dehumanized, and dehumanizing, aspects. The music drives to a ferocious climax, which leads directly into the fourth movement, a passacaglia based on a broad theme that initially has the feeling of a protest. This theme, acting as the ground bass of the passacaglia, is repeated twelve times; it contains references to the symphony's opening idea. The ground bass ultimately sinks into the final movement, which brings a distinct change of tone. After the gloom of the work's earlier part, Shostakovich's familiar; ironic, character now starts to assert itself. At the recapitulation the symphony returns to its opening, the violins sustaining a chord of C major, while the initial motto is played pizzicato in the basses. There is no affirmation, no poignancy: only an ironic question mark remains.
- David Patmore (2006)
Симфония № 8
Symphony 8 др. исполнение
Симфония № 8 c-moll, ор.65 (1943), посвящена Е. Мравинскому. Премьера - 4 ноября 1943, Москва, Большой зал консерватории. Государственный академический симфонический оркестр СССР, дирижёр Е. Мравинский
Симфония № 8 до минор, соч. 65 - симфония Дмитрия Шостаковича, написанная летом 1943 года и впервые исполненная 4 ноября того же года Симфоническим оркестром СССР под управлением Евгения Мравинского, которому и посвящена работа.
Экспансивные эмоциональные выражения вместе с монументальными музыкальными конструкциями привели музыкальный язык Шостаковича к вершине. Хотя симфония и не так популярна, как Симфония № 5, № 7, № 10 или № 15, но, по мнению специалистов, интеллектуально глубока. Симфония создана в традициях до минор "Трагедия в Триумф", ведущих начало с Пятой симфонии Бетховена и включающих Восьмую симфонию Брукнера и Вторую симфонию Малера. Хотя имеются значительные разногласия, насколько оптимистичным является окончание, поскольку оно заканчивается очень тихо. Друг Шостаковича Исаак Гликман назвал Восьмую симфонию "самой трагической работой".
Мрачные тона и, в частности, отсутствие оптимистичного вывода сделало симфонию неприемлемой в качестве пропаганды дома или за рубежом. Симфонию критиковали композиторы на Пленуме в марте 1944 года, а после указа Жданова в 1948 году она была фактически запрещена восемь лет. Впервые после перерыва симфония прозвучала в октябре 1956 года в исполнении Московского филармонического оркестра под управлением Самуила Самосуда.
The Symphony No. 8 in C minor (Opus 65) by Dmitri Shostakovich was written in the summer of 1943, and first performed on November 4 of that year by the USSR Symphony Orchestra under Yevgeny Mravinsky, to whom the work is dedicated.
The symphony does not appear on concert programs very often, yet many recent scholars have ranked it among the composer's finest scores. Although some have argued that the work falls within the tradition of other C minor "tragedy to triumph" symphonies, such as Beethoven's Fifth, Brahms' First, Bruckner's Eighth, and Mahler's Second, there is considerable disagreement over the level of optimism present in the final pages. Shostakovich's friend Isaak Glikman called this symphony "his most tragic work".