Symphonies 2 and 11
Daphnis et Chloë, Pavane, Bolero
Gergiev generates a frisson in everything he conducts, but it is only in French and Russian repertoire that his stylistic antennae seem secure. This Daphnis with the London Symphony Orchestra has everything one could want – atmosphere, languor, superb wind playing. Gergiev generates more high-voltage drama than rival versions, albeit in a less flattering acoustic.
The programme is filled out with a soporific Pavane pour une infante défunte and a characterful Bolero. The two “revolutionary” Shostakovich symphonies on the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra’s CD are rarely encountered in the concert hall.
In the Second, a pair of short, spiky movements prefaces a final chorus celebrating the 10th anniversary of the October revolution. The words may be propagandist but the music tells us much about the youthful St Petersburg composer’s avant-garde leanings, and it is performed here with total conviction.
On the surface the underestimated Eleventh is also propagandist: it commemorates the failed 1905 revolution. But this is one of Shostakovich’s most mature and masterful symphonies, with a stark, dark power that rises above the events it claims to portray. Gergiev captures its brooding majesty in a tense and involving performance, distinguished by the terrifying sound of the St Petersburg winds.