Shostakovich: Symphony No. 15 & Hamlet

Part of the RNO/PentaTone Shostakovich Cycle
Symphony No. 15
Hamlet, a selection from the incidental music, Op. 32 (1931)
Mikhail Pletnev, conductor
PTC 5186 331
Purchase via RNO Pentatone Music iTunes


Stand (Germany)

The Russian National Orchestra, under its founder and longtime director Mikhail Pletnev, play [Shostakovich's] swan song with a wide repertoire of tender, subtle tones and a huge dynamic range, all the nuances of which are clearly audible, thanks to the excellent recording technology... There is no shortage of "Russian" orchestral style: exciting rhythmic precision, expansive arcs and a dark, earthy tone, beneath which one senses a certain wildness. At the end of the symphony [is] the surreal ticking... and at the final moment, a confident A Major chord - a transition without fear and without pain, as if one has gained access to a great secret. What moving music!

BBC Music Magazine

Mikhail Pletnev delivers a strongly compelling and often illuminating interpretation of Shostakovich's final symphony... emphasizing the music's menacing subtext... Pentatone's wonderful SACD recording enhances this impression, each instrumental strand in this very linear composition projected with amazing clarity.... Pletnev's enterprising coupling [incidental music from Hamlet] is no less unhinged in character than the Fifteenth, Pletnev and his excellent orchestra relishing every opportunity to pinpoint its moments of irony and absurdity.

[This is] Shostakovich's final, and in many ways darkest symphony. [Mikhail Pletnev's] view emerges as one of the bleakest on record as well as one of supreme sensitivity…. Pletnev's thoughtful handling of the gradual disintegration of the music, eventually disturbed by the chilling clockwork percussion passage that brings the symphony to its end, lingers long in the mind… The recording quality of this SACD is absolutely superb…every detail of Shostakovich's orchestration is strikingly clear. Strings have a realistic bite and the characterful timbre of the RNO woodwind and brass is vividly captured throughout, while Shostakovich's important percussion parts have an impressive clarity and impact in both works. Pletnev's performances make another valuable addition to this splendid ongoing Shostakovich cycle.

Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra can always be counted on for a big sound, precise playing and wonderful attention to detail, and all these characteristics are on display... Pletnev's precision and fine attention to detail serve this music particularly well, rendering it understandable as an end-of-life summation whose structure makes logical sense even if some of its elements remain quixotic. The Mahlerian way in which individual orchestral voices emerge is especially well done here, with Alexander Gotgelf's solo cello particularly good.

El Tablon de Scherzo (Spain)

Pletnev understands this symphony as well as the best of them... [The eleven Hamlet numbers] balance the density and powerful beauty of Symphony No. 15. Again, Pletnev shines with the Russian National Orchestra. This is among the best of this excellent [Shostakovich] cycle by Pentatone.

Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra deliver one of their finest performances... Pletnev's restraint enhances the symphony's ambivalent character. In the end, after the haunting closing measures have faded to silence, it seems the symphony remains as enigmatic as ever, and Pletnev has admirably preserved that essential quality. PentaTone's audio is spacious and deep, and everything that can be heard vividly comes through.

Opus Haute définition

Shostakovich... possessed all the traits of a divinely talented artist... [Symphony 15 is his] touching swan song... Pletnev, heading the Russian National Orchestra... finds just the right spirit, thus offering an apt interpretation which puts this disc, in addition to being a remarkable sound recording, at the top of an SACD discography.

Audiophile Audition

The second movement has an extensive solo for cello, here superbly played by Alexander Gotgelf. Pletnev produces wonderful sounds from the Russian National Orchestra, secure brass chorales and ravishing string playing, and an intensity of interpretation which fairly etches itself into one's hearing. Solo violin passages are beautifully played by Alexander Bruni, the orchestra's concertmaster... To match the orchestra's superb playing we are presented with a recording of the highest quality too... This is an excellent addition to PentaTone's ongoing series of recordings of Shostakovich symphonies...

Fanfare magazine

This is a fine performance, and a noteworthy interpretation of Shostakovich's final symphony...the most difficult to reconcile musically and (if you will) psychologically... By addressing the music with a consistently serious—though never ponderously somber or inflexible—demeanor... Pletnev suggests a remarkably unified, poised, and persuasive solution to this enigma... his gradual building of tension in the finale…is well judged and provides a strong measure of nobility… the Russian National Orchestra's strings are alternately breathtaking, mysterious, elegiac, and forceful … anyone drawn to Shostakovich should hear this disc.

Classic Voice (Italy)

Pletnev's interpretation is impeccable.

What They’re Saying

"The Russian National Orchestra... has become a living symbol of the best in Russian art."

The Miami Herald