Shostakovich, Symphony No. 8 - Mstislav Rostropovich, London Symphony Orchestra (1 CD)
A profoundly personal statement on the tragedy of war, Dmitry Shostakovich's dark Symphony No. 8 (1943) was his elegiac follow-up to the heroic Symphony No. 7, "Leningrad." Eclipsed in popularity by the earlier work, and censured by the Soviet regime in 1948, the symphony fell into relative obscurity until after Stalin's death; yet it is acknowledged today as a central work in Shostakovich's oeuvre, and may be viewed as a precursor to such later symphonic "requiems" as the Symphony No. 10 and the Symphony No. 13, "Babi Yar." Because the mood is somber and subdued, there are long passages that demand the utmost concentration from the listener, particularly in the vast slow movements; and despite the violence of the Allegro non troppo and the forced gaiety of the Finale, Shostakovich's introspective tone dominates, and draws one ever deeper into bleak, war-torn landscapes and spiritual desolation. In this live 2004 performance, Mstislav Rostropovich elicits a great performance from the London Symphony Orchestra, expressing the brutal candor of this symphony without pulling punches, but also the intense feelings of grief in the painfully sustained first movement and the Largo. The DSD sound is perhaps not as clear and focused as one might wish, but it is surprisingly good for a live recording.