BBC Music Magazine

Three other great recordings

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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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