With the Berliner Philharmoniker currently in Baden-Baden for opera performances (Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten) and concerts – the Strauss is live from Berlin on April 14 via the Digital Concert Hall – this is a good time to alleviate any sense of Berliner deprivation with this own-issue of three Shostakovich Symphonies, presented in typically luxurious fashion, http://www.colinscolumn.com/new-on-cd-blu-ray-berliner-philharmoniker-and-kirill-petrenko-dmitri-shostakovich-symphonies-8-10-to-be-released-on-24-february-2023/.
Symphony Nine (October 31, 2020) receives a revealing poker-faced, emotionally unsettled and dark rendition; it may not be the post-WWII ‘choral symphony’ extravaganza the authorities were expecting, nor is it here the ‘light’ piece it is sometimes described as being, for the divertimento aspects of the work are exchanged for something sinister and edgy (and not just the fourth movement’s lamenting bassoon and baleful brass) – if there’s humour anywhere then its black – played exceptionally (as for the other Symphonies) and was guest-reviewed at the time, http://www.colinscolumn.com/berliner-philharmoniker-kirill-petrenko-conducts-strausss-metamorphosen-shostakovichs-ninth-symphony-live-webcast/.
On the same disc is Symphony Ten (October 29, 2021). Right now, any reading of it has to compete with the remarkable Kurt Sanderling account recently issued, (http://www.colinscolumn.com/ica-classics-releases-kurt-sanderling-shostakovich-ten-and-kirill-kondrashin-balakirev-islamey/ and http://www.colinscolumn.com/marchs-recording-highlights/. Perceptions of music change, mine of this work has because of Sanderling. This Berlin version is notable though, and I said so at the time, http://www.colinscolumn.com/berliner-philharmoniker-kirill-petrenko-conducts-two-symphonies-mendelssohns-scottish-shostakovichs-tenth-live-digital-concert-hall-webcast/, certainly absorbing and recommendable, although, for me, Sanderling peers into the music in a way that colours it to a degree that makes listening to any other interpretation difficult despite all the excellence and particular insights that the Berliners and Kirill Petrenko offer.
Petrenko’s conducting of Symphony Eight (November 13, 2020), like the Ninth, is new to me, if not the Column, http://www.colinscolumn.com/berliner-philharmoniker-kirill-petrenko-conducts-shostakovichs-eighth-symphony-live-webcast/. It stood alone back then and is stunning, given with unanimous concentration and attack (Shostakovich’s war-torn world of 1943 becomes our Covid-ravaged period, all too real) creating an intensity that is gripping, the first movement searing with anguished emotions and stomach-kicking painful dissonance, passions unabated by the two following Scherzos, spat out with vehemence and stalking rhythms, the second of them dissolving into a lonely passacaglia, whose subdued expressions avoid ‘walls with ears’, and then from messages underground to a final movement that is optimistic, if equivocally, some light at the end of a very long tunnel. Petrenko achieves for the Eighth what Sanderling does for the Tenth.
On CD – other media are available in this set – the Philharmonie recorded sound is first-class, uncompromisingly impactful in No.8 and, thankfully, without the reverberation that has been added to its companions, applause removed (in any case Symphony Eight was ohne Publikum). Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings BPHR 220421 (2 CDs; Blu-ray Disc of the concert videos | High-resolution audio | Dolby Atmos; Interview film with Petrenko).