Shostakovich; Sviridov; Weinberg Chamber Symphonies

This intense work by a Shostakovich pupil brings a passionate performance

Author: 
David Fanning

Shostakovich; Sviridov; Weinberg Chamber Symphonies

  • String Quartet No. 8
  • Chamber Symphony
  • Chamber Symphony No. 1

The most noteworthy item here is the Chamber Symphony of 1940 by Georgy Sviridov, receiving its first recording. Sviridov was one of Shostakovich’s first pupils in the late 1930s and later became famous in his own right as one of the finest and most popular of song composers in the Soviet Union. The flow of influence between teacher and pupil went both ways; but in this early work, as in the Piano Trio of 1945, the teacher’s hand on the shoulder is understandably evident.

Nevertheless, this is a serious and intelligent work, its moods wiry and intense almost throughout. It starts with strong echoes of the opening pages of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, continues with a slightly jaunty but also slightly melancholy allegro that soon acquires considerable toughness, and concludes with a finale that deflects from its initial energetic paths into more thoughtful moods. According to Manashir Yakubov’s essay, the manuscript was ‘mislaid for several decades’ but was prepared by the composer in a new edition especially for Bashmet. The performance conveys a fine passion and sense of authority.

The first of Weinberg’s four chamber symphonies is for the most part a gentler, almost autumnal affair, and its subtle shades are beautifully appreciated by Bashmet and his top-class ensemble. Misha Rachlevsky’s more overtly expressive account, coupled with Weinberg’s Third and Fourth Chamber Symphonies, is by no means displaced, though I should record that Bashmet, unlike Rachlevsky, does observe the first movement repeat. At any rate, it is heartening to think that Bashmet’s advocacy may bring this marvellous score to a wider audience.

The 18-strong Moscow Soloists are an impressive cohort and no mistake. There are few more finely played accounts than this of Barshai’s arrangement of Shostakovich’s Eighth Quartet. However, there are plenty that are more musically perceptive. Bashmet’s inability to resist soloistic nuances leads to a laboured impression in the outer movements, and had he thought to check the score of the original he would surely have corrected a glaring misprint in Barshai’s transcription at 1’33” in the last movement.

Nevertheless, for the Sviridov alone this is an issue not be missed by the specialist collector, and it comes in an admirably judged recording.

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