Evne though this title has been famous for decades in Shostakovich circles, I still find it odd that a pairing of these symphonies by two British conductors far better known for Vaughan Williams, Holst and Gilbert & Sullivan would retain its cache^ into the new century. Now Arkiv has done Americans a great favor by purchasing the recording rights and reinventing this wonderful recording and making it available through Amazon.com for a very good price. Arkiv's production comes with the original artwork and music (the artwork a tad altered) and no notes.
The greatest surprise here is Boult's recording of Shostakovich's bitter and inward-looking Symphony No. 6, which begins with a lengthy Largo that incorporates much of the introspection, arcane personal torment, and introversion the composer endured under Stalin. I've heard this work done better by Mravinsky (in another title Arkiv has reinvented and rereleased) but this one is very good in its own right and sounds better than the Mravinsky. Boult, who had little or no profile in Soviet music, conducts this as if he knew the music from the inside and his orchestra plays real well for him.
Malcolm Sargent's version of the jaunty Symphony No. 9 has always been a favorite of mine, which puts me in the minority. Critics have hailed recorded translations from Bernstein, Caetini, Jarvi and even Eduardo Mata as preferable to this, which one critic labeled aristrocratic. That may sum up the playing of the London Symphony; yet I believe it undercuts the conductor's approach, which is very dramatic and vital in the final movement.
This is a good starting pointfor anyone new to the Symphony No. 9, which Stalin expected to be a majestic piece of Soviet agitprop celebrating the anniversary of the revolution ... but instead received Shostakovich's mocking portrait of the dictator and Soviet Russia. The 1960s sound was always good on Everest LPs and was transferred exceptionally well to Everest's CD. Arkiv has done a good job picking up the fidelity in this issue and offers it at a modest price. This is a bargain in the low price field and should be considered by anyone that wants to know the Shostakovich symphonice ouevre well.