Andrew Clements 

Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos 1, 2 and 3 – review

Mark Wigglesworth's take on Shostakovich's early symphonies gives a fascinating insight into the composer's development. It's modernism without the dogmatism, writes Andrew Clements
  
  

Shostakovich's first three symphonies just squeeze on to a single CD, but as far as I know this is the first time they have been released in such a convenient package, as they make up the latest instalment in Mark Wigglesworth's cycle of the complete symphonies. From the perspective of how Shostakovich's career was to develop, all three offer a fascinating array of might-have-beens, hinting at stylistic directions that were contemplated, but never followed up. Wigglesworth's performance of the First Symphony particularly, though, seems intent on demonstrating how much that work does actually foreshadow what followed from the Fifth Symphony onwards. There's little of the quick-witted brittleness that one usually associates with the score; everything is much more deliberate and, in the slow movement and finale especially, almost self-consciously "symphonic". With their much looser grip on tonality and constructivist approach to form, it's much harder to disguise the modernist inclinations of the Second and Third, but Wigglesworth and the Netherlands Radio Orchestra do a fine job in clarifying the tangled textures, and in making their choral finales seem a bit more than just propagandist doggerel.

 

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