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Shostakovich: Symphony No. 15; Piano Sonata No. 2

Eugene Ormandy Audio CD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 9.49 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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1. Allegretto - The Philadelphia Orchestra
2. Adagio - The Philadelphia Orchestra
3. Allegretto - The Philadelphia Orchestra
4. Adagio/Allegretto - The Philadelphia Orchestra
5. Allegretto - Emil Gilels
6. Largo - Emil Gilels
7. Moderato - Emil Gilels

Product Description

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Shostakovich's last symphony had a positive, but bemused, reception when it appeared in the West in 1972. Why the Rossini and Wagner quotations? What other allusions and codes lurked behind the often austere musical facade? Ormandy's recording arrived soon after and, like those of the previous two symphonies, made available to US and UK audiences a performance which is always musical, with playing and recording that sound excellent even now. Shostakovich today is a more complex and ambiguous figure than even this work, emotionally powerful for all its inscrutability, seemed to suggest. The funeral procession of the slow movement and subversive calm of the finale are well conveyed by Ormandy, focusing on pure musical expression without interpretative gimmicks. Emil Gilels's magisterial 1965 account of the Second Piano Sonata is much more than a fill-up. Among the composer's more neglected works, its inwardness and abstraction must have felt out of place in wartime conditions, but hindsight shows just how indicative of Shostakovich's later music it was to be. As with the symphony, this is thought-provoking music, worth taking time getting to know.--Richard Whitehouse

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars First Recording still the best Feb. 25 2004
Format:Audio CD
I got to know Shostakovich's 15th from the LP of this performance, the work's first recording (in the West, anyhow). It has come up well in RCA's stunning remastering, and is still the best performance overall that I know. Ormandy paces the enigmatic piece moderately, never over-emphasizing any of the contrasting moods (as Jansons does in his more- too?- full-blooded approach, with the LPO on EMI), or rushing it to try and whip up excitement (as Neeme Jarvi does on DG with the Gothenberg Orchestra). Haitink's old Decca version is very good (as are all his Shotakovich symphonies- you could do worse than buy the box set), but Ormandy had the better band, and the added focus born of premiering the work.
Couplings help decide the issue: Jarvi has been reissued in a 2-cd set with his Shostakovich 13th & 14th Symphonies: good value if you don't have any of them, and fine singing from Sergei Leiferkus in 14, but still a rush in 15. Jansons is coupled with the Second Piano Concerto, beautifully played by Mikhail Rudy, but it's a better idea to get both concertos on one disc: I'd recommend Bronfman or Hamelin. The RCA disc couples Ormandy's reading with a justly famous, magisterial performance of the Second Piano Sonata by Emil Gilels: game and match. I heartily agree with the reviewer ryzzard that Ormandy's 14th should be reissued: another first recording, featuring the great Phyllis Curtin. The way things are going with BMG, though, I'd say don't hold your breath.
In '97 DG released a recording of a transcription of the 15th Symphony for violin, cello, piano, celeste and percussion, played by Gidon Kremer's group Kremerata Musica. It doesn't quite work as a cogent piece of music, since Shostakovich always thought orchestrally, but it's very interesting to hear the bones of the piece's structure laid bare. I don't know if this CD is still available.
Meanwhile, 5 stars for Ormandy, and for Gilels. The symphony is a haunting masterpiece.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful performance of an enigmatic work. May 10 2000
By NNNNN
Format:Audio CD
Shostakovich's final symphony has left many listeners puzzled with its hints of Wagner, Rossini and early Shostakovich. Is it about Shostakovich's life, is it some summary of his work or ? It is an enigma that he left us the listener to deal with and as usual with Shostakovich the challenge is well worth it. Many conductors have taken on this score and floundered in the effort. Not so Eugene Ormandy. He had an affinty for Shostakovich's music and the composer himself spoke well of his performances. To my ears Ormandy is the only performance that makes this enigma work. The acidic Shostakovian wit and contradictatory brooding darkness are deftly brought forth by him. To say the least the Philadelphia Orchestra is in prime condition. As icing on the cake Gilel's classic recording of the 2nd Piano Sonata fills out the album. Now we hopefully await RCA finally putting out Ormandy's equally superb performances of the Shostakovich 13th and 14th symphonies on cd.These superb performances have been unavailable far too long.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good symphony, Great sonata Nov. 6 2001
Format:Audio CD
This symphony, when I first heard it, perplexed me, to say the least. I am a big fan of Shostakovich, especially the piano works (24 preludes and fugues, piano concertos and piano quintet are all incredible), but this was the latest work of his I had ever heard. As I listened more and more, however, I became increasingly impressed with it. Despite the sparseness of the first movement it stills carries the power of Shostakovich. There are some very musically profound moments all throughout the symphony. The sonata is amazing. Emil Gilels interpretation is easily the best one I have ever heard. He takes it from a very cool, almost stoic perspective. It fits the music perfectly. The mechanical precision brings out the genius and power of this great work. I highly recommend this CD.
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By "orlac"
Format:Audio CD
In his late life Dmitri Shostakovich so admired Eugene Ormandy's conducting of his works that he gave him the right to the first American performances of the last 3 symphonies. How much admired? Shostakovich took the risk of getting a smuggled copy of the semi -banned 13th Symphony to him for performance. Till his death Ormandy never revealed how it had been smuggled. This perceptive performance of the 15th shows Shostakovich's faith was well placed. Aided by a score notated by the composer Ormandy brings clarity and a sense of purpose to a score that has baffled many. I would hope as another reviewer has that RCA will finally release the performances of the 13th and 14th under Ormandy. Like the 15th they are admired not just by critics and listeners but by the composer himself.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Embarrassing May 28 2001
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
This version of Shostakovich is horrible. Toward the last part of his conducting career, Ormandy's orchestra makes distinctive errors in playing. Of course, one has to be trained and has to be quick to hear these errors. I have many other versions of Shostakovich's 15th and his piano sonata. The piano sonata itself is ok, but the 15th in this version totally ruins the show.
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