SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 8 in C minor, Op. 65.
Russian National Orch/Paavo Berglund, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186 084 TT: 66:29

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 8 in C minor, Op. 65.
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi/Oleg Caetani, cond.
ARTS SACD 47704 TT: 53:05

SHOSTAKOVICH: String Quartet No. 1 in C, Op. 49. String Quartet No. 2 in A, Op. 68. String Quartet No. 4 in D, Op. 83.
Mandelring Quartett
AUDITE SACD 92.526 TT: 72:52

RACHMANINOFF: Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27. Caprice bohèmien, Op. 12.
Novosibirsk Academic Symphony Orch/Arnold Kats, cond.
AUDITE SACD 92.558 TT: 72:56

Whoever would have expected this early in the SACD world there would be three different recordings of Shostakovich's brooding Symphony No. 8! First we had Mstislav Rostropovich's live account with the London Symphony (REVIEW), and now a live recording made during a concert October 2004 in Italy's Milan Auditorium with Oleg Caetani conducting, and a studio recording made June 2005 in DZZ Studio 5 in Moscow with Paavo Berglund on the podiium. The only plus with the Caetani recording is audio quality—engineering is spectacular indeed with a remarkably wide dynamic range and thundering but clear bass. However, this exposes the undernourished strings of the Giuseppe Verdi orchestra and generally undistinguished orchestral playing. The fast first movement may turn off many; it is about five minutes shorter than most other performances. 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 might seem an odd choice to conduct Shostakovich, but he and the superb Russian orchestra provide a fine performance beautifully recorded.

Superb sonics combine with superior performances on Audite's well-filled SACD of three of Shostakovich's early string quartets played by the Mandelring Quartet who vividly convey the many contrasting moods of this music. Let us hope this series will continue with the remaining 12 quartets. However, Audite's SACD of Rachmaninoff performed by the Novosibirsk Academic Symphony Orchestra directed by Arnold Kats is disappointing in every way except in playing time. The performance is unexceptional: the orchestra sounds minute, recorded sound is distant, muddy and unfocused. For Rachmaninoff's famous symphony in its full glory, investigate the Budapest Festival Orchestra recording conducted by Iván Fischer (REVIEW).



R.E.B. (August 2006)