Shostakovich: Symphony No 8 / Petrenko, Royal Liverpool PO
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This may not be the most harrowing version of the Eighth, but of its type it's unquestionably a great performance. Often this symphony consists of hair-raising climaxes interspersed between acres of nothingness. Not here. This symphony also is one of Shostakovich's most formally masterly and imaginative, and this performance reminds us in the most compelling way. Petrenko's flowing tempos in the first movement and passacaglia keep the music moving, not lurching, forward at all times. The 25 minutes of the first movement seem to pass by in half that time. Its opening threnody in particular has even more expressive power than usual for being phrased in long melodic arcs that never turn static.
After an aptly gawky scherzo, the toccata is as brilliant and menacing as any (with a dashingly militant central section), but it's the finale that really sets the seal on this performance. The Eighth always is a tough piece to project convincingly, but Petrenko is at his absolute best here, pacing the music perfectly and timing the climax in such a way that (for once) it doesn't sound like a less impressive recapitulation of the first movement--and this isn't because its previous occurrence is underplayed in any way. Excellent playing from all departments of the orchestra plus vividly natural engineering complete what is easily the best installment of this ongoing cycle to date.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: 8572392
Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor: Vasily Petrenko
Orchestra/Ensemble: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra