BBC Music Magazine: Editor's Choice.
Among the many discs released during last year's Shostakovich anniversary, one that received particular notice was Mark Wigglesworth's recording of Symphony No. 13 'Babi Yar' with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra]. In the International Record Review the performance was hailed as 'probably the most convincing Thirteenth to have appeared in the West', while the French magazine Diapason commented on how the various facets of the composer was brought out: 'the scathing humour, the sense of the grotesque, the satiric spirit and the secret messages ... in sum, a vivid and true vision'. Mark Wigglesworth, described in the BBC Music Magazine as 'the finest Shostakovich interpreter of his generation', has already recorded seven of the composer's fifteen symphonies for BIS, beginning this great project with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and continuing with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra – a collaboration which began with the 2005 release of Symphony No.8, in what The Sunday Times described as ‘a fine performance of deep understanding.’ The team now returns with their renditions of Symphonies Nos 9 and 12.
As Mark Wigglesworth observes in his own liner notes, these two works posed serious problems for their creator. Following on the heels of his two great war symphonies, the Ninth was generally expected to be a celebration of Stalin and the imminent victory over the Nazis. Shostakovich wanted to avoid any such programmatic interpretations and therefore came up with what Wigglesworth describe as ‘a pure and perfect, almost neoclassical work’. 16 years later, Shostakovich was commissioned to write a work commemorating Lenin and the 1917 Revolution. Again reluctant to comply with the expectations of the Soviet state, he now took exactly the opposite approach and wrote his most programmatic symphony. One of the greatest film music composers of his time, Shostakovich used his well-honed technique to conjure up brilliantly the atmospheres and events of the revolution, thereby avoiding having to make any personal comments on it or its leaders.