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  LPO -
  Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 5 - Masur
  Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1 in F minor Op. 10, Symphony No. 5 in D minor Op. 47

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Kurt Masur (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:
  Recording producer: Tony Harrison
Recording engineer: Mike Hatch
Mastering engineer: Mike Hatch
Recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall, London, between 31 January 2004 and 3 February 2004

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Reviews: 1

Review by beardawgs May 11, 2005 (11 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This is 4.0 live recording of two separate concerts, and judging by the amount of stage and audience noise, I’m pretty sure that both are unedited (unlike LSO Live series, which are mixes of final rehearsal and actual performance). As ever with similar projects, something is lost, something else gained, and in this particular case few rational compromises are outweighed with the drive, energy and excitement of the real event and feeling of ‘being there’. Personally, we’re more than pleased to have the opportunity to hear some of LPO’s fine concerts in the comfort of our home. Their residence, Royal Festival Hall is not just the ugliest dwelling of South London, but definitely the worst sounding concert hall I had misfortune to attend. Not that you can tell by this recording!

First of all compromises: minor untidy imperfections, few insecure entries and out of tune horns. And plenty of noise not just from the audience, but also from the conductor and players, especially in those tense moments after quiet build-ups, just before forte outbreaks. Breaks between the movements are not ‘cleaned up’, you get all the coughs and chairs and the music more than once emerges out of them. But on the positive side, you get to hear all the subtleties of the long piano stretches, especially in the slow movement of the 5th symphony that are inaudible further than row 6 in the RFH.

Performance wise, main quality of this disc is the live element – I had the impression that I was there as the music unfolds. Masur observes every detail and nuance of the score, and the orchestra most of the time responds accurately. Few imperfections in timing and being together are not a big deal, but can be annoying on repeated listening. Fast (and loud) music works better, there are some momentary lapses in concentration in slow sections, but as a whole, energy and momentum, so crucial in symphony number 5 are all there. Performance of the 1st symphony is good, but not as energetic and exciting as the 5th. Masur was conducting for the audience there and then, which doesn’t necessarily always works the same way for the repeat listening.

Recording quality is a winner (having in mind where it was made), it must have been a living hell to place the microphones in such a dry and unflattering acoustics. There isn’t much of reverb and space, orchestra is a bit forward placed, but it has more depth and perspective than some Channel Classics studio recordings. Lack of the central channel is more obvious during the quiet sections, but with the orchestra in full swing the gap disappears. There is a plenty of bass and few impressive bangs from gran cassa. Dynamics are big and natural, especially in the finale of the 5th, Masur and LPO will literally blow your mind (and your Hi-Fi if you play it too loud).

Overall star rating is reduced for imprecision (performance), non musical noises and just that extra bit missing in a big realistic sound picture (recording). Apart from all reservations, I still prefer a vital live recording bursting with energy than a perfect but lifeless one made in the studio. But this is not a first choice for a single recording of either 1st or the 5th symphony.

PS. Yes, it sounds better and more natural than LSO’s 11th with Rostropovich whose recording is unnaturally dynamic with no depth at all and glued to the front speakers.

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Works: 2  

Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 10
Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47