Shostakovich: Symphonies No. 1 and No. 6
Classics Today France
Vladimir Jurowski is one to watch... He gives us a major Shostakovich disc here... it strikes us with its cohesion and the orchestra’s balance... Jurowski’s power of persuasion brings an improved sound to the music... The Finale of the First Symphony will stop you in your tracks. This is a large, modern version of Shostakovich by the new generation, and it is one of the gems in the PentaTone catalog.
I would rate this as possibly the finest Pentatone SACD that I have heard... The soundstage is almost holographic in its fullness and solidity. Throughout, the recorded sound has both warmth and clarity as well as stunning impact in the climaxes. Vladimir Jurowski’s performances of these two symphonies undoubtedly match the quality of the recordings. He knows exactly what he wants and obtains truly outstanding results from his orchestra... His handling of the wistful waltz, which brings that work to mind, is delightful while the main march theme is forceful and determined.... [The Sixth Symphony] is played with a rapt intensity and although quite spacious always maintains a forward pulse. Throughout, one’s attention is drawn to the excellent playing of the RNO, for example the desolate cor anglais and flute solos that follow the first climax and the beautifully managed consoling passage for horns... This is a superb SACD and I hope that Pentatone can persuade Jurowski to undertake more Shostakovich recordings with this orchestra.
The Sunday Times
An exceptional coupling of the masterly, youthful F minor symphony, which the composer completed at the astonishing age of 19, and the comparatively neglected B minor, No 6. Jurowski brings an awesome majesty to the powerful, Mahlerian funeral march of the Sixth’s spacious opening largo, and his RNO is simply dazzling in the high jinks of the scherzo passages in both works. If the coupling appeals, this shouldn’t be missed.
Classical CD Review
Jurowski's vivid performances have been well captured by the engineering staff - there is richness as well as impact. Recommended!
A treasure of a disc... The recording team and the Russian National Orchestra manage to excel themselves... [On Symphony No. 1], the voice of the composer [is] heard without much interference. The tempi are all well chosen and the playing is beyond criticism... Jurowski is a perfect conductor for [Symphony No. 6]... In no way does he indulge himself, but the textures of the first movement are full and rich... All the lines in the musical argument are made clear and cleanly by the RNO, who really demonstrate a superb technique and tone. This reputation is then further enhanced by some very virtuosic playing of a quicker kind in the final two movements... there is no shortage of energy and brilliance from the RNO... it will take a few listens to get away from the breathtaking playing on display. [There is] the characteristic PentaTone house sound - beautifully clear, yet rich and sensationally well balanced. This cycle with PentaTone and the Russian National Orchestra is promising to become a truly magnificent set...
Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1, the creation of a 19-year-old genius, is very difficult to perform successfully... Jurowski takes the work in hand and imposes, throughout the four movements, an incredible tension... The orchestra delivers an exceptional performance: the texture of the strings, the delicacy of the winds and the power of the brass and percussion cause one to marvel.... [In Symphony No. 6], Jurowski dares the most subtle nuances... the orchestra is magisterial, wonderfully recorded and clearly loves playing under such conducting. This prodigious recording is the equal of the famous recordings of Mravinsky, Bernstein and Kitaenko.
[Jurowski] is a very impressive leader who totally gets both the drama and lyricism in this music. The longer cantilena lines really sing, and the dramatic parts zing. The recording is close-up and has excellent presence. Balances are outstanding, including the tricky-to-record piano in the First Symphony.
A remarkable disc from a Russian firebrand - up there with the big guns. [This has] an analytical coolness and forward propulsion that both quicken the pulse and engage the brain. A most satisfying disc by a still-growing, major talent.
From the very beginning, it’s clear that this is a great sounding SACD. [In the First Symphony,] the instrumental soundstage is wide and deep, the ambient air and bloom around the instruments give results in superb transparency. The orchestral climaxes are exciting and clear... Fortunately, Jurowski’s interpretation is distinctive and very Russian. He doesn’t hurry through the first movement but infuses it with a gravitas that doesn’t eschew excitement. The lugubrious and solemn lento, the heart and soul of the work, is contrasted with a beautiful heartbreaking violin solo that is echoed by a muted trumpet. The finale builds slowly to a thrilling climax.... The Russian National Orchestra plays brilliantly throughout this wonderful disc. Don’t miss it!
[Shostakovich’s] First Symphony…has to be the most brilliant ever written by a teenager: witty, dramatic, devilish, yet totally secure on its classical foundations. Vladimir Jurowski plays its contrasts to the hilt, contrasts of moods, tempos, dynamics. Momentary silences or little pauses isolate solos; pianos are tender, fortes raucous, with screaming trumpets. Instruments never blend, and the effect is of a period-instrument performance of a Shostakovich symphony. To my ears, it all works. This is brighter, deeper, funnier, and nearly as dramatic as any performance I know... This is a wildly imaginative performance, superbly executed...
Jurowski's approach to Shostakovich is unashamedly Romantic... There is a sense of warmth and color one doesn't often hear... Anyone with an interest in Shostakovich or a love for these particular works should go out of their way to hear Jurowski offer a dissenting opinion on what is sometimes considered settled law.... The RNO is a virtuoso ensemble that plays with a winning combination of intensity, delicacy, and tonal beauty... There is a visceral charge, a thrilling sense of presence in the heightened realism and very spacious images these CDs project. At the last note... I kept expecting applause--the performances sounded that vivid and believably live... highly recommended.
International Record Review
Vladimir Jurowski undoubtedly has the measure of the First Symphony, neither underplaying its youthful recklessness nor overlooking pointers to the composer's maturity. Transitions between the first movement's ironic and explosive extremes are adroitly handled, while the Scherzo's contrasts of angularity and mystery are unusually well coordinated. The expressive plangency of the Lento is conveyed without affectation (and with some superb woodwind playing from the Russian National Orchestra principals), while the lead-in to the finale is expertly done. For the First and Sixth Symphonies, [this is] the finest coupling available.
Dallas Morning News
Here the new Russia goes up against the old and comes up the winner…Young firebrand Vladimir Jurowski leads the Moscow-based orchestra that his compatriot Mikhail Pletnev has built from scratch in recent years. You won't find a more electrifying Symphony No. 1 than this one. The romping piano in the second movement causes the pulse to race, and those massive staccato chords toward the end might just stop your heart entirely. The astonishing level of orchestral refinement shows that the Russian National Orchestra can play as well as any Western rival [and] the strings have a warmth and sheen that sets them apart.
This young maestro is a very impressive leader who totally gets both the drama and lyricism in this music. The longer cantilena lines really sing, and the dramatic parts zing. The recording is close-up and has excellent presence.