BBC Music Magazine
Symphony No. 5
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra/ Krzysztof Urbánski
Alpha Classics ALPHA 427 46:16 mins ‘Shostakovich’s Fifth is without doubt one of the greatest symphonies ever written.’ Krzysztof Urbánski evidently speaks for many of his peers: the catalogue is stuffed with outstanding recordings. Still, his unfolding of the long first movement, with its many tempo changes, as a single unified sweep is most impressive, as is the hushed desolation he achieves in the third movement. Maybe his account of the post-mahlerian Scherzo lacks quite the savage bite of certain other versions, but his interpretation of the opening stretch of the finale not as a resurgent gathering of the masses, but as an increasingly frantic flight, suddenly confronted by the brutality of power, is terrifying. The NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra responds with all due intensity.
Alas, the recorded sound is both slightly recessed and reverberant, so that searing tuttis tend to get fuzzed by extraneous resonance while some of the quieter string textures lack presence – the first violins’ high tremolo F sharp in the final bars of the slow movement is inaudible. Whether this is the result of too-distant miking or of still problematic acoustics in the new Elbphilharmonie hall is hard to tell. Bayan Northcott