Friday, January 26, 2018

Shostakovich: Symphony No 6 & Sinfonietta

The Scotchman
Ken Walton


If any of Shostakovich’s symphonies testifies to the composer’s lighter charm, it is his Sixth. In this debut recording by the Estonian Festival Orchestra – a group created six years ago by conductor Paavo Järvi – that charm is spiritedly captured by the young musicians. The playing is deliciously fresh and alive, the passive grit of the opening Largo offset by the whimsical twists of the progressively faster Allegro and Presto. The final moments are a veritable riot of colour. Yet, as with all Shostakovich, there is a darkness lurking beneath the surface, which Järvi’s pungent vision forever hints at. The partnering work is Abram Stasevich’s strings and timpani arrangement of Shostakovich’s haunting 8th String Quartet, known as the Sinfonietta and written in response to “the victims of fascism and war”, performed here, to varying degrees, with daunting intensity, feverish venom and, finally, a mystical stillness in the closing bars.

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