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I fully understand the composers intentions and have a version that conveys the "forced rejoicing" very well....Andrew Litton- Dallas Symphony.
I would like one that conveys the opposite...a triumphant, optomistic verion...one that has a bass drum player that's 7'10" and weighs 500+ lbs.
The live NY Phil. recording by Bernstein is too rushed.
The assumption being, they were used to the other way. "Bernstein played the work with searing emotional heat and whipped up the conclusion to twice the accepted tempo."
The premier recording was by Mravinsky. "Of his three recordings of the Fifth, the most revealing is the last - a beautifully played and recorded 1996 Czech concert (Supraphon 3327) that's also the slowest on record, with the conclusion so deadly turgid as to leave no possible doubt as to its import." [Classical Notes]
One can see there how the re-interpretation had taken over; my first acquaintance of it was from Ben Zander in Boston, decades ago. But wait! That outlook derives from the composer's thoughts as recorded in Testimony, which now has come under a cloud of suspicion. I give you the excellent Alex Ross:
Whether the main body of Testimony contains scattered genuine utterances of the composer is a topic I no longer care much about, because there is no way of telling what’s real and what’s not.
The scholarship has always been suspect, as were the motives of Volkov himself.
At the same time, much of his book rings true. It certainly offers an alternative, at least, to the Fay view that (essentially) Shostakovich was a willing tool of the Soviet apparatus and not very bright besides.
Meanwhile, as regards the 5th, we have the best kind of corroboration there is: a metronome mark. That, and the fact that Soviet conductors who knew DSCH took the ending slowly. *They* knew it wasn't a misprint, and if the "back story" of the ending is not as Volkov relates it, it must be pretty close: an orchestra just can't sound "triumphant" in that music at that tempo.
Also to Shostakovitch. Well it totally blew me away and I have been a huge fan of his music since then.
Yuri Temirkanov, who was present at the Moscow concert by the NYPO under Bernstein in 1959, told me the composer detested Bernstein's fast finale but diplomatically said otherwise to Lenny.
By 1967, Bernstein had released a live performance from Tokyo where the tempo of the finale was much slower, but still nothing like the composer's metronome markings.
Temirkanov and the St Petersburg have recorded the 5th and 6th on Warner Classics, so one might actually order the CD and find out what the Maestro meant about the "incorrect" tempo marking.
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I can't say the Masur "settles" anything either, except that its first movement is unbeatable.
I do not know if you have a change to listen it to the end, perhaps you ran away to cook some food or to watch beer/baseball… :-).
Muti, surprisingly, does the best job with the coda. He captures the irony without dwelling on it, pacing is just right -- slow but not exaggerated -- and the final few bars are played quite loud and equally brilliantly recorded by EMI.
"Testimony" came out. The metronome mark was widely thought to be a misprint. IIRC, in one Soviet-era edition some editor actually "corrected" it.
I remember hearing Rostropovich's 5th and couldn't believe the slow ending--he may have asked S. himself, as did Celibidache.
I have a version (on vinyl) by the Moscow Philharmonic (Kondrashin) that I like. Melodiya catalog number R 40004. Don't know if it's out on CD, if that's what you need/want.
rlindsa - new vinyl freak
I'm not exactly certain what you are looking for but you might try Andre Previn's version on EMI. His rendition of the 8th symphony on EMI is also very good.
Removing the "non-musical context" from ANY work by Shostakovich injects disagreement with regard to proper performance. Like with Mahler, it is unclear whether stripping the (proper?) emotion nullifies the message. I feel that it DOES NOT. So, I admire Bernstein in Mahler, but also Boulez. For Shostakovich, it doesn't always have to be "Russian", or histrionic or depressing. For the 5th, although I wouldn't describe it as "optimistic" -- more like neutral/powerful -- there is a nice recording by Levi on Telarc (coupled with the 9th Symphony) -- recently reissued at mid price. PLENTY of big bass when needed.
All you have to do is observe the metronome mark.
While Shostakovich was still living, Celibidache wrote to him, asking if the MM (eighth-note = 176) was right or not--it seemed too slow even to Celibidache! He received a postcard from Moscow, unsigned, with one word on it: "Correct."
course, blaring brass and scraping violin tone -- which really sqeezes the last ounce of hell from the music...pacing apart.
Doesn't the "texture" of the instruments have as much to do with the emotion/message (or lack of it) as the pacing of the music?
"Removing the "non-musical context" from ANY work by Shostakovich injects disagreement with regard to proper performance."
My point, apparently poorly made, was that whether or not there is or is not an extra-musical context we have an objective guide: the metronome mark.
Shostakovich's marking *forces* the musicians to bring the extra-musical meaning to the fore--it's damn hard to sound joyful at an eighth-note = 176. Whether that results in "blaring and scraping" is pretty immaterial; neither are necessary for the performance to convey the composer's meaning.
There is also a striking spatial metaphor in this ending. The strings are repeating a unison A over and over again, relentless and cold. They are like the bars of a giant cell, behind which the cowering masses "rejoice."
Your metaphor is terrific. Regardless of "how" music such as that is played, if the basic structure of the piece is adhered to the main point is made. Put another way, I'm not sure (even in my recommended performance) that I was completely convinced by the idea that ANY performance of the 5th could sound "triumphant, optimistic" -- I merely thought that "removing some of the (Russian?) idiosyncrasy" (and adding a little Telarc bass!;-) might be one answer.
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