Published by Berliner Philharmonic Recording with the prestigious orchestra performing the three works of the Russian composer led by its musical director
“An incredible psychological drama”. This is how Kirill Petrenko defines Dmitri Shostakovic’s eighth, ninth and tenth symphonies which he tackles at the helm of the Berliner Philharmoniker in a box set containing two CDs and a Blu-ray with a video interview with Petrenko himself and a series of essays on composer. Published by Berliner Philarmoniker Recordings, the album has a cover created by the German photographer Thomas Demand which enhances the contrast between Shostakovich’s fight against the Stalinist regime and his desire for freedom, sometimes whispered, sometimes shouted, found in the three symphonies of the recording, made during the period of the pandemic: the outer cover reproduces an oppressive row of barracks steel lockers while inside the photos of the flowers of Gorky Park in Moscow triumph.
The eighth symphony in C minor, composed by Shostakovich in 1943 and performed for the first time in November of the same year with Yevgeny Mravisnkij on the podium, is constructed as a sort of ‘requiem’ to represent the composer’s condolences for the Second World War . The ninth symphony, from 1945, should have been patriotic to celebrate the victory of the USSR by completing the so-called ‘war trilogy’ composed of the seventh and eighth. Shostakovic instead wrote a simple symphony in the style of Haydn, irritating the leaders of the Kremlin and especially Stalin who considered it an affront to the memory of the fallen. It is one of the shortest and, according to critics, the most successful symphonies of the Russian composer.
The 10th Symphony, described by Petrenko as “the greatest expression of liberation after the 5th Symphony in Shostakovich’s production”, was written in 1953, immediately after Stalin’s death. According to some interpretations, the violence of the second movement would be the musical representation of Stalin’s own violence. But this thesis has been refuted by many musicologists.