BBC Music Magazine



Symphony No. 8

London Symphony Orchestra/ Gianandrea Noseda

LSO Live LSO0822 (hybrid CD/SACD) 65:08 mins

Shostakovi­ch’s music is never ‘tasteful’. Bleak, sarcastic, alarming, often wickedly playful, yes. All these qualities are certainly to be found in the Eighth Symphony – though scarcely, it seems, by Gianandrea Noseda. An often fine conductor, here he achieves a near miracle and makes this, one of Shostakovi­ch’s most ferocious works, written not long after the victory of Stalingrad, sound deadly dull.

The LSO’S playing is technicall­y faultless and polished, but absolutely poker-faced: the second movement has scarcely a hint of biting sarcasm, nor is there edgy menace in much of the rest – least of all the third movement which appears to degenerate into a tedious high-kick dance. Perhaps Noseda’s intention was to demonstrat­e that, notwithsta­nding its notoriousl­y histrionic qualities, the Eighth can be regarded purely as music with total disregard for any of its ‘extra musical associatio­ns’. Perhaps he is trying to avoid the ‘rhetoric and coercion’ Robin ★olloway infamously accused Shostakovi­ch’s music of. In any case, Noseda’s account has utterly purged the work of all expression, let alone feeling, until the brief, incongruou­s appearance in the finale of the woozy bass clarinet and folk-style fiddler brings an unexpected splash of colour – far too late to save the performanc­e. Daniel Jaffé PERFORMANC­E ★★


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