This year the Australian Youth Orchestra is celebrating its 50th anniversary, one it will mark with a tour of Europe. The Melba Foundation has recently released on its “Melba” label a performance by the AYO, conducted by Alexander Anissimov, of the Symphony No.10 in E Minor of Shostakovich, recorded in concert in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House in May, 2005.
The 15 symphonies of Dimitri Shostakovich have been subjected to severe criticism, both political and musicological, since their first performances. The Tenth Symphony, while not escaping that scrutiny entirely, has fared better with the critics and has proved immensely popular with concert audiences. It’s a work to which I have always responded favourably, although I had some difficulty with the final movement as it was performed in my first acquaintances with it. It struck me as too lightweight following the sombre atmosphere and dramatic excitement of the other three movements. Several recorded performances over the past few years have happily reversed that impression, and this moving new reading by Alexander Anissimov strikes me as one of the most convincing I have heard. The tension of the long and deeply reflective first movement (26:37 in this performance) is very effectively maintained, and Anissimov does not allow the thrilling brilliance of the second movement to contrast too sharply with the darker drama of the movements which flank it. His treatment of the final movement is exciting and spirit-lifting, but it leaves – as well it should – uneasy questioning in the mind of the listener.
I have been consistently impressed over the years by the extremely high standards of performance displayed by this country’s youth orchestras. I was not aware for a moment in listening to the AYO’s handling of the Shostakovich Tenth that it was a youth orchestra performance. That very high level of musicianship, combined with Anissimov’s dynamic reading of the work and superb capturing by the sound engineers of the acoustic of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, makes an important addition to the archive of Australian recordings and to the Shostakovich discography.
Read the original review on the website