MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition. Night on the Bare Mountain. Prelude to Khovanshchina. Gopak from Sorochintsky Fair
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
PHILIPS SACD 470 619 (F) (DDD) TT: 51:44 (5.1 channel) (HYBRID)

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 7 in C, Op. 60 "Leningrad"
Kirov Orchestra/Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/Valery Gergiev, cond.
PHILIPS SACD 470 623 (F) (DDD) TT: 78:44 (5.l channel) (HYBRID)

Gergiev's Mussorgsky CD was REVIEWED on this site several months ago when originally issued; now we have the multi-channel version which, from a sonic standpoint, is a vast improvement. The VPO still is in front, but the ambient sound adds much to richen orchestral textures. For comments on the performances, please check the review mentioned earlier. A definite debit is the limited playing time—considerably less than an hour for a full-price (but not premium price) SACD.

The Shostakovich CD is, generally, well worth owning. Recorded live in Rotterdam's concert hall, De doelen, September 19-21, 2001, this performance was included a year or so ago in the Radio Nederland Rotterdam Philharmonic concert series distributed by WCLV. It would be interesting to know if producer Andrew Cornall was involved in this recording right from the beginning. Sound on the SACD is more spacious than what was heard on the broadcast.The absence of applause indicates rehearsals as well were recorded.

Shostakovich's massive "war" symphony was premiered in Russia March 5, 1942. Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony presented it July 19th of that year and over the next few years the symphony received numerous performances, particularly in the U.S. Since that time its popularity has diminished in favor of the composer's Fifth, Tenth and Eleventh symphonies. For many years Leonard Bernstein's 1988 Deutsche Grammophon Chicago Symphony recording has been considered the finest, along with Bernard Haitink's 1980 London Philharmonic Decca/London recording. Presenting this lengthy work (78:44 for Gergiev, 84:53 for Bernstein, 79:48 for Haitink) is a major project because of its length and large-orchestra requirements, the latter amply met in the Gergiev recording which combines the Kirov and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestras. Producer Cornall has provided well-balanced sound, perhaps rather bass-heavy, the orchestra(s) in front with ambient sound from other speakers, low percussion rather lacking in impact.

R.E.B. (Sept. 2003)