Kurt Sanderling’s conducting of Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony (recorded May 15, 1973, the composer still alive) is a profoundly revealing affair, maybe not to put into words, but you know the recreator has a hot-line to the composer in terms of the work’s architecture and any (unstated) meaning. The expansive opening Moderato is seamlessly unfolded, compellingly intense, the New Philharmonia responding with intent and inspiration to Sanderling’s insider observations, nothing is frivolous or glossed over, the climax rages, and the end result is a performance of penetration, grittiness and unvarnished honesty, the Stalinistic Scherzo deliberately paced and malicious, never gratuitous (vicious timpani strokes, wild woodwinds and brass, hysterical strings) at the expense of the Soviet leader, followed by the wastelands of the Allegretto, edgy and regretful music that flares-up to an uncompromising dance that leaves matters unresolved so that melancholy stalks the Finale’s Andante introduction before a fleet Allegro avoids skipping and jumping, suggesting the composer forcing himself to write something joyous, with the DSCH motif then defiantly shouted out as the Symphony nears its conclusion, the aftermath being a gradual coming-together for an uproarious ending that is open to interpretation, the timpani salvo as dominant as it should be to complete a great truth-telling and illuminating performance.
Kirill Kondrashin’s conducting of Balakirev’s pianistically finger-twisting and exotic Islamey, as extravagantly orchestrated by Alfredo Casella, finds the Royal Philharmonic in equally virtuoso form (January 24, 1978, also Royal Festival Hall) for colourful music with no hidden agenda beyond enjoyment and, on this occasion, the pleasure of an orchestra giving its all for a distinguished and demanding guest.
The recorded sound for Shostakovich is vivid and immediate, no detail or dynamic is compromised, and Paul Baily also ensures that the Kondrashin tape is similarly excellent. ICA Classics ICAC 5171.