||DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH - SYMPHONIES 1 & 15 - VALERY GERGIEV (Conductor) - MARIINSKY THEATRE ORCHESTRA - MARIINSKY SACD HYBRID - MAR0502|
A brand new label launched only four months ago in May 2009, with already 3 recordings in its catalogue. The inaugural release was a wonderful recording of
the satirical opera 'The Nose' by Shostakovich, which is already a best-seller. The Mariinsky Theatre, which used to be known as The Kirov during the Communist era,
originated way back in 1783 and is now into its 227th season and boasts an impressive history including premiere performances of operas and ballets from Verdi and
Tchaikovsky up to new composers like Smelkov. In 2006, they opened a new state of the art concert hall with impressive acoustics, where most of their recordings will take place.
This is a notable release for two reasons. It is the second recording produced by the Mariinsky Theatre on its in-house label with essential Shostakovich repertory never recorded when Gergiev was under contract to Philips. Also, it is the first occasion of a head-on collision between this conductor and the other Russian podium maverick, Moscow-based Mikhail Pletnev. Appearing only months apart, both tackle the Shostakovich 15. Both albums are offered as Hybrid SACDs (Pletnevís for Pentatone). The main work has been controversial since its first performance in 1972. With extensive quotations from Rossini, Beethoven and Wagner (all, mind you, re-orchestrated at each appearance in the score) plus much self-quotation, the composerís intentions have been widely misunderstood. The Fifteenth is, in fact, a testament on a lifetime of experience. Recorded versions abound but only two conductors, the composerís son Maxim (Collins and Supraphon) and Kurt Sanderling (Berlin Classics and BPO Centennial) ever seem to have realized its full measure on disc. How does the man of the theatre, Gergiev, stack up to virtuoso pianist and orchestra builder Pletnev? Both can claim performances in the M Shostakovich/Sanderling league. In direct comparison it is a dead heat. Pletnev achieves greater cohesion while Gergiev has an advantage in spontaneity. The couplings may influence a choice. Gergiev conducts a thrilling account of the First Symphony while Pletnev opted for a selection from the incidental music to the 1931 stage play, Hamlet. Why not go for both?