City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Nelsons

Shostakovich Symphony no 7 ("Leningrad")


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Any new recorded edition of Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony which doesn't actually trip over its own feet is a welcome addition to the catalogue. There are so many approaches to the wartime symphony that they have to be scrutinised carefully. Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons and his City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra take a thoughtful, analytical approach to the 73-minute epic, recorded live at Symphony Hall, Birmingham exactly a year ago (with sustained audience applause tacked on). The blurb on the disc is keen to alert us to Nelsons's "close attention to detail". The alert is superfluous: the clarity of textures, even in the thunderous climaxes throughout the symphony, is transparently obvious, though I would take issue with some of his ensemble balancing. And there is a cost to Nelsons's clarity: the symphony loses its visceral edge and its juggernaut quality. This might be the only account, live or recorded, where the blazing final coda hasn't metaphorically lifted me out of my seat.

Michael Tumelty