Shostakovich: Symphony No 10

Mark Wagner
Positive Feedback Online (US)

Melba's live recording of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 is a commendable effort.

The Australian Youth Orchestra gave its first concert in Sydney in 1957 and features the finest young Australian players; they give many concerts and tours. Alexander Anissimov has recorded symphonies of Glazunov and Rachmaninoff ... as well as other Russian music. This Shostakovich recording was made during concerts May 11-12, 2005 in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. Producers were Maria Vandamme and Ian Perry, Location Sound Engineer was Tony David Gray,and the SACD mix was by Richard Girvan and Ian Perry.

The performance is excellent by any standards ...

I will get right to the point …At first, I was not sure what to expect with this recording. 2006 was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Shostakovich and the music world was supplied with numerous recordings of the works of the great man. My hesitation was not because it was another recording of a Shostakovich symphony; rather, it was the fact that it was a “youth” orchestra. Now, don’t get me wrong … I have nothing against youth orchestras. However, I have heard plenty of youth orchestras that will usually be lacking in at least one section: the strings may be weak but have a superb woodwind and brass section or some other varying combination of strong and weak sections. However, my view of what a youth orchestra can do has forever been changed by this recording. I do not know what they are feeding the young musicians “down under” but whatever is going on is working and working WELL!

I have two other recordings of Shostakovich's 10th Symphony, one an SACD from Capriccio with Kitajenko and Gürzenich-Orchester Köln and the other an older Decca with Sir Georg Solti and Chicago. While the Capriccio benefits from the SACD sound and the Decca suffers from some 1990s digital glare, the sound of the Melba recording is absolutely top notch, besting the Capriccio by a fair amount and trouncing the Decca.

Timings are pretty much similar on both the AYO and Gürzenich-Orchester Köln recordings and not surprisingly, slower than the Solti. Regarding performance, I have always liked Solti’s Shostakovich for its raw intensity, especially in the war symphonies. The AYO recording has all the fire and passion that the Solti offers, without the sometimes raw sound from the CSO. Funny, when I bought the Capriccio set, I felt pretty much confident that this set, outstanding as it is, might be the end of many more offerings of Shostakovich on SACD. I am very glad that Melba proved me wrong.

Finally, the sound. As usual the sound is up to Melba’s usual high standard of excellence. We are presented with a huge soundstage featuring an expansive yet controlled sound. I suspect that the hall was large, though once again the sound benefits. Superb strings, blazing woodwinds (easily as good as the Solti and Kitajenko) and very fine brass makes for a truly memorable recording that should be in everyone’s collection. This SACD makes for a great addition to my growing Shostakovich library. Melba, anymore Shostakovich by chance with the AYO?

HIGHLY recommended!

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