Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8

Part of the RNO/PentaTone Shostakovich Cycle
Symphony No. 8
Paavo Berglund, conductor
Pentatone SACD
Purchase via RNO Pentatone Music iTunes


Supersonic Award, Pizzicato, (Luxembourg)


Pentatone's excellent Shostakovich symphony cycle is shared thus far by three conductors: Vladimir Jurowski (Nos. 1 and 6), Mikhail Pletnev (No. 11) and this new issue with Berglund conducting the Symphony No. 8. Berglund …and the superb Russian orchestra provide a fine performance beautifully recorded.

Berglund’s control of tension, and the Russian National Orchestra’s poise and commitment, are admirable.…Berglund’s deliberate, even stoical stance envelops the listener to enact a drama all the more telling for not being sign-posted... The big climax is ground-out with a vengeance, the orchestra palpably involved, which makes the eerie pianissimo strings and the consoling cor anglais solo all the more telling.... One of the successes of this recording is the feeling that these are unedited takes... the ebb and flow of paragraphs and climactic tension are organic and have a build-quality commensurate with the concert hall.


What distinguishes [Berglund's] version is its immediacy, particularly in the first section. Berglund never prepares us for the Abyss: he does not increase the tension, holding it on high from the outset and so opens the earth again and again for our ears, as with an earthquake.... An outstanding performance by the Russian National Orchestra with excellent tone and effective Surround Sound, which Berglund puts to good use in a masterful interpretation of this moving symphony. [Supersonic Rating]

In the opening movement, Berglund and the RNO manage what others often do not - namely to convince the listener of the structure and the emotional narrative of the work... Berglund and his players clearly understand the score and communicate this understanding far better than almost anyone I've heard... As ever, the Pentatone recording is first rate with crystal clear sound and the placing of the instruments easy to identify, even with such large forces.... In short, this shattering music receives the playing it fully deserves here from Berglund and the RNO. This RNO focused series from Pentatone is fast turning into the most exciting cycle of the Shostakovich symphonies to be put down on disc and is easily the best recorded.

Classics Today

This is a very fine performance... There are now performances of this symphony for every taste..., but none offer quite Berglund's interpretive point of view, so there really is something new here for collectors to enjoy. The engineering also is very good both in stereo and multichannel formats, and the bottom line is that you may quibble with certain details, but there's no question that Berglund delivers an intelligent, moving, and fully formed conception of this powerful and emotionally draining symphony.

This effort by Berglund and the excellent Russian National Orchestra, recorded in Moscow in June 2005, would be hard to beat as regards both recorded sound and the performance itself. [This] performance is the most wrenching I've heard.

Berglund and the Pentatone engineers have scored a triumph. Berglund emphasizes the bleakness of the first movement. His tempos… carry the music forward extremely well, and listening is a gripping experience… a beautiful performance.… Pentatone has exceeded itself in providing surround sound in every respect as good as it gets. Highly recommended.

What They’re Saying

"To present American and Russian musicians performing and teaching together at Festival Napa precisely the kind of effort that sustains vital cultural a critical time for both societies. [This] resonates with the public [and] is meaningful for the musician participants...Cultural diplomacy and music offer alternatives to contention and sustain important linkages between our societies for the long run...Now more than ever we need viable citizen-to-citizen points of contact and dialogue."

James F. Collins (Ambassador Ret.)

Senior Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace