Shostakovich Chamber Symphonies
Someone, somewhere, might be scratching their head at first sight of this disc, muttering: "I know of Shostakovich's symphonies, but what are his chamber symphonies?" And I don't think aficionados should presume omniscience on the part of all those interested in music. These chamber symphonies, numbered respectively opus 110a and opus 118a, are arrangements for string orchestra of the composer's Eighth and Tenth String Quartets, made with the composer's permission by the master arranger Rudolf Barshai who, later in his life, also arranged Ravel's String Quartet for the Scottish Ensemble. The two quartets, each in a different way, are monumental pieces and masterworks which have shifted plane from quartet to orchestral format with idiomatic and stylistic effectiveness. This new recording by Candida Thompson's Amsterdam Sinfonietta is blisteringly effective, though I suspect that for palates which prefer their Shostakovich on the lean side, Thompson's take might sound a bit beefy, with less of a razor's edge to the abrasive pages.