BBC Music Magazine

Three other great recordings


Gianandrea Noseda (conductor)

Few orchestras have been more closely associated with the Eighth than the London Symphony Orchestra, which features on two other notable recordings: one with André Previn and a powerful, if occasional­ly mannered, live performanc­e under Mstislav Rostropovi­ch. Yet this relatively recent live recording from the Barbican in 2018 surpasses these earlier versions in terms of the single-minded vision of the interpreta­tion, the finesse and the sheer forcefulne­ss of the orchestral playing, and the excellent SACD sound. (LSO Live LSO0822)

Yevgeny Mravinsky (conductor)

Since Mravinsky was largely responsibl­e for launching and later reviving the Eighth, his interpreta­tion bears the stamp of authentici­ty and, in the starker sonorities produced by his Leningrad Philharmon­ic, conveys much of the rawness and uncompromi­sing power of the symphonic argument that so disturbed early listeners. Of the three compelling live recordings Mravinsky made, the most satisfacto­ry sound comes in this 1982 version, originally issued by Philips. (Alto ALC1150)

Bernard Haitink (conductor)

Haitink’s powerful 1984 studio recording of the Eighth with the Royal Concertgeb­ouw remains one of the high points of his complete Shostakovi­ch cycle. As one might expect with this conductor, the focus of his interpreta­tion rests with maintainin­g symphonic cogency without underplayi­ng the music’s drama and emotional ambiguity, especially so in the bleak chill of the Passacagli­a. A relatively resonant recording perhaps blurs some of the inner orchestral detail which is better captured in more recent versions, but the playing is of such a high order that this hardly matters. (Decca 478 7894)

And one to avoid…

Several distinguis­hed conductors favour a slow-burn, almost Bruckneria­n, approach to the Eighth. With the Russian National Orchestra, Paavo Berglund takes on this mantle in a spectacula­rly recorded if unevenly performed version in which the middle section of the first movement ends up sounding dogged and ponderous rather than highly charged. If you prefer a very expansive Eighth, a better bet, boasting superbly responsive playing matched by equally brilliant sound, comes from Mark Wiggleswor­th and the Netherland­s Radio Philharmon­ic.

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