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Positive Feedback ISSUE 33
september/october 2007


Dmitri Shostakovich, Symphony No. 5 Suite from The Golden Age
by Karl Lozier



Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Gerrard Schwarz conductor. ARTEK CD #AR-0037-2

This contemporary symphony by Shostakovich is one of the easiest to love compositions that can be considered to be post romantic or so called, "Contemporary". Careful listening leads me to the conclusion that nearly all aspects of this performance and recording help allay many fears of modern/contemporary classical music. Schwarz's leadership seems to emphasize the underlying romantic or melodic threads in this thoughtful performance. At the same time, the "harshness" or "bite" is somehow seemingly a bit rounded off and downplayed. The end result, intended or not, is to make this recording particularly appealing to those listeners wanting to be introduced, to contemporary music. Contemporary music often contains passages that are dissonant or contain sections that are deliberately harshly contrasting and so on. Somehow Schwarz smoothes out the "rough edges" on such passages. Aiding and abetting what seems to be Schwarz's approach are things such as the relatively relaxed recording perspective including distance and attention to fine detail of the perhaps reduced orchestral size. Hopefully these efforts will help many to try going a bit beyond the Romantic period of classical music.

Everything seems to change with the other selection on this disc, the suite (four selections) from The Golden Age. This contains much immediately appealing yet very varied music. It goes from beautifully melodic to "show-off" to whimsical to even ironic, at times—a palate of musical expression. The complete score for the Golden Age does contain much more music, some just as unusual and interesting as this suite and some not. It is worth investigating for many listeners. In this selection there is much more animation and even the recording is more extroverted really displaying the orchestra's fine wind and brass sections as well as the percussion to full effect. It was recorded around a year later than the symphony and sounds as if slightly closer microphones were used or perhaps the orchestra was augmented. Those wishing to try more of Shostakovich's music can be advised to try his slightly more traditional first symphony and his appealing cello concerto.