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Dunelm Records

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906 - 1975)
Symphony No.4 in C Minor, Op. 43 (1936)
London Shostakovich Orchestra/Christopher Cox
recorded in St. Cyprian’s Church, London on 8 November 2003 (including applause) DDD

This is another one of those discs, which you can understand being recorded and made available but not on the international full priced CD market. It is not that this is a poor recording, it is just not good enough to stand comparison with professional performances of this work made by full-time professional orchestras. I am absolutely certain that this performance made its impact in performance, and that is largely down to the composer, and many if not all of the audience may wish to have a memento of the evening, slips and all. The sleeve says that this was a one performance recording, and I am not sure whether patching sessions were made available after the event; if they were, then the orchestra is in worse shape that I originally thought.

There are numerous passages of poor co-ordination and downright bad ensemble, some of which might have been eliminated with later attention. The rushing string passage in the middle of the first movement for example is only a very approximate attempt at what the composer wrote. When one compares this with alternative performances (mine were from the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy and Myung-Whun Chung), one can hear the difference immediately. Just in case you might feel that the comparison is unfair using an ensemble such as the Philadelphia, I could have used any number of alternatives to achieve the same result. This does not mean that I am knocking the current performance – it has a place, as a memento of an exciting although perhaps not too accurately played concert.

In all other respects, this issue is excellent, with full details of the recording venue and equipment used, photographs of the artists and a more than respectable set of notes. In the notes there is an apology for traffic and audience noise. Although it is evident, I did not find this particularly distracting. We are also given the full complement of players in the orchestra.

Withdrawn from performance in the mid-1930s whilst in the midst of initial rehearsals for its first performance, this symphony languished unperformed in the composer’s possession until Stalin’s death the artistic atmosphere in the USSR had thawed somewhat. It received its first performance by the Moscow Philharmonic conducted by Kiril Kondrashin on 30th December 1961, and was recorded later by Melodiya (this recording is well worth looking out for).

When Shostakovich withdrew the work in 1936 he told friends and colleagues that he would need to modify the score to make it more acceptable to the authorities. However, when it was finally performed in 1961 it had not been altered in any way. Shostakovich’s initial inspiration still speaks loudly and clearly to us even today, and the brutality inherent within the score comes over loud and clear. This is true even in this performance with its very attractive spontaneity which sometimes gets the better of the players.

So, to sum up, I cannot give this disc a recommendation unless you want it as a memento of the concert in London on 8th November 2003. In that case go ahead but be aware of the shortcomings.

John Phillips

All made at St. Cyprian’s Church, Glentworth Street, London

KHACHATURIAN: Suite No.2 from the ballet ‘Spartacus’ [21:48]
BARBER: Concerto for violin and orchestra [24:08]
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.65 [30:56]

Adrian Varela (violin)
London Shostakovich Orchestra/Christopher Cox
Recorded "live" 19 May 2001
DUNELM DRD0173 [77:19]
Reviews: C H Loh, DSCH Journal

Symphony No.7 in C major [‘Dedicated to the city of Leningrad’] [73:03]
London Shostakovich Orchestra/Christopher Cox
Recorded "live" 18 May 2002
DUNELM DRD0184 [73:03]

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, Op. 102: (‘To Maxim Dmitrievich Shostakovich’) [20:32]
Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Op.103, ‘The Year 1905’ [67:27]
Marina Primachenko (piano)
London Shostakovich Orchestra/Christopher Cox
Recorded "live" 9 November 2002.
DUNELM DRD0193 [2 CDs: 87:59]

Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Op.103, ‘The Year 1905’ [67:27]
London Shostakovich Orchestra: Conductor: Christopher Cox; Leader: Jonathan Lee
Recorded "live" 9 November 2002.
DUNELM DRD0193B [67:27]

Symphony No.4 in C minor, Op.43 [63:39]
London Shostakovich Orchestra: Conductor: Christopher Cox; Leader: Louise Lee
Recorded "live" 8 November 2003
DUNELM DRD0216B [63:39]

Concerto for cello and orchestra No.1 in E flat, Op.107 [28:46]
Symphony No.5 in D minor, Op.47 [55:33]
Jonathan Ayling (cello)
London Shostakovich Orchestra/Christopher Cox
Recorded "live" 15 May 2004
DUNELM DRD0227 [2 CDs: 84:19]

BBC Music Magazine, November, 2004, 13, Number 3, p.63

Symphony No.5 in D minor, Op.47 [55:33]
London Shostakovich Orchestra/Christopher Cox
Recorded "live" 15 May 2004
DUNELM DRD0227B [55:33]
Single CDs: £10.95 (inclusive of postage and packing in the UK)
Dual sets of 2 CDs: £16.95 (inclusive of postage and packing in the UK)

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