Shostakovich: Symphony No. 13 "Babi Yar"

 Symphony No. 13 in B Minor, Op. 113 "Babi Yar"

I. Babi Yar: Adagio ~ 15.18
II. Humour: Allegretto ~ 7.30
III. In the Store: Adagio ~ 11.45
IV. Fears: Largo ~ 11.07
V. A Career: Allegretto ~ 12.30

Oleg Tsibulko, bass
Popov Academy of Choral Arts Choir, Alexei Petrov, artistic director
Kozhevnikov Choir, Nikolai Azarov, artistic director
Russian National Orchestra, Kirill Karabits, conductor

 

MOVING PORTRAIT OF LIFE UNDER SOVIET REIGN

The Russian National Orchestra continues its Shostakovich cycle with Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar”, together with bass Oleg Tsibulko, the Popov Academy of Choral Arts Choir, the Kozhevnikov choir and maestro Kirill Karabits. Inspired by Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem “Babi Yar” about a Nazi massacre of Jews just outside Kiev in 1941, Shostakovich based the Symphony on five of the author’s poems. The texts reflect on the peculiarities of daily existence in Stalinist Russia, providing a deep insight into life under Soviet reign. After the sombre, impressive opening movement, Shostakovich alternates between a satirical stance, humour, and portraying the hardships of the Stalinist reality, leading up to the innocent beauty of the symphony’s finale. One special aspect of this recording is the Russian National Orchestra’s collaboration with an Ukrainian bass soloist and conductor, underlining the shared cultural and political heritage of both countries.

The Russian National Orchestra is among the most important orchestras in the world and has a vast, multi-award-winning PENTATONE discography. Kirill Karabits features on Tchaikovsky Treasures (2019) with Guy Braunstein and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Oleg Tsibulko, the Popov Academy of Choral Arts Choir and the Kozhevnikov choir all make their PENTATONE debut.

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Reviews

Gramophone

Climaxes have the appropriate visceral clout but Karabits… sees the music as human drama as much as sonic mausoleum. Expect transparent textures, greater fluidity of tempo and the occasional touch of levity from the brass. The victims of Babiy Yar are memorialized effectively… A quintessentially Russian band, two Moscow-based choirs, a Ukrainian conductor and a Moldovan baritone offer authenticity of the best post-Soviet kind.

BBC Music Magazine

This beautifully engineered studio recording under Kirill Karabits has all the necessary adrenaline to keep the listener fully engaged. Karabits is particularly effective in negotiating the tricky changes of temp on the opening ‘Babi Yar’ movement and ensures that the tension is sustained right to the very end in the emotionally shattering climax of the closing bars.

The Times of London

The performance has the authenticity and depth expected from the Kiev-born conductor Kirill Karabits, Oleg Tsibulko (bass), the Russian National Orchestra and two Russian choirs.

Ritmo

This Babi Yar is high-voltage… [Karabits] manages, thanks to tight control over the tempo, to give the music the expressive space it requires in this desolate panorama of 1960s Russia, full of cynicism, depravity, anxiety, and corruption, insinuated with drops of humor.

MusicWeb International

Karabits’s account of the first movement (“Babi Yar”) is more beautiful than I’ve ever heard it, the colour and startling detail of Shostakovich’s score superbly caught by engineer Nadia Nikolayeva. Tuttis are powerful yet proportionate, the choirs and bass soloist Oleg Tsibulko well-drilled and wonderfully refined... “Humour” is crisply done, its sardonic mood well caught… The despair embedded in the dark bass line at the start of “In the Store” is deeply felt… The Stygian bass-drum shudders and frisson-inducing tam-tam strokes are more present – and more terrifying – than on any other recording of the 13th I know. The orchestral playing astounds at every turn, the choral singing beyond reproach… A thoughtful, quietly compelling “Babi Yar,” studded with good things; stellar sonics, too.

The Whole Note

The chorus, orchestra and soloist are uniformly excellent. Oleg Tsibulko has the classic Russian basso voice, warm and powerful. The recording was made in a studio, but one hears a reverberant hall.

Limelight

Karabits’ faster tempi suit the moods of the second and fifth movements particularly well. Humour’s “jaunty dance” is exactly that, and the finale’s bizarre mix of the hearty and the surreal has a true sense of direction… Karabits elicits some fine playing in the brass and winds...      

MusicWeb International

Karabits obtains a biting, keen-edged performance… “A Career,” the final movement, seems to lower the temperature. Karabits shapes the light-textured orchestral opening beautifully… Karabits gets this movement just right and I love the delicacy with which strings and celeste deliver the last couple of minutes… Kirill Karabits is impressive in this symphony and those who are following this RNO cycle will find this a valuable addition to the series. He’s well served by soloist, chorus, and orchestra.

Pizzicato

Kirill Karabits… takes care not to lean on the emotional side. He avoids anything that could be overly forceful in order to get to the heart of the music with tension and seriousness. His tempi are relatively fast… which matches his generally slender tone, in which the colors… are transparent in a rhythmically very clear and delicate sound. Thus, the dark mood that dominates almost the entire symphony, takes on an objective efficiency, which only makes the menace of the music more relentless… Other conductors have used emotional restraint and made the Babi Yar Symphony cold and expressionless. Kirill Karabits succeeds in doing just the opposite. The Russian National Orchestra plays superbly, the choir is overwhelmingly intense, and the soloist is also quite excellent.

What They’re Saying

"The Russian National Orchestra's performances are as close to perfect as one could hope for."

Trinity Mirror, England