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     Dmitry Shostakovich (1906-1975) was probably the last great Russian composer who continued developing ideas of monothematism and the standard pattern of symphonic cycle.
     His 15 symphonies are very different, but at the same time these monumental works can
be considered movements of one mega composition called "The Musical Annals of the 20th Century".  Shostakovich's fascination with Beethoven and Mahler determined his preferences in many cases.
    Symphony No. 8, Op. 65, was composed in 1943 during the siege of Leningrad.  The siege lasted for a total of 900 days, from September 8, 1941, until January 27, 1944. Hundreds of thousands of defenders of the former Russian capital were killed by invading German forces, or died from starvation.  Many corpses remained unburied for weeks.  They were scattered on the streets at the very center of the city and many of these dead bodies became the only food for people who were still alive.  The Second World War and the communist terror were the most profound experiences of the composer.  Today his music has become popular and we can enjoy it sitting in our cozy houses somewhere in California or
Switzerland and speculate with a glass of superb red wine about Shostakovich's involvement in communist propaganda.  Of course, this wine is not the blood of over 20 million Russians shed on the land of many European countries to liberate them from fascism, and the music by Shostakovich is not a Communion.
     As with the Seventh Symphony, war's stern events are imprinted with colossal, tragically
generalized force in Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8.  At the same time, the Eighth  Symphony carries more intimacy; its emotional implication is presented more concretely, more exaggerated in its genuinely tragic expression.
     The First movement is so essential, that it itself could be considered a symphony or at least a symphonic poem inside the symphony.  The musical language is very restrained, sometimes even ascetic, which makes the impact of the music more powerful.  This work is the composer's diary, his confession.  You hear his very intimate thoughts, his innermost
experiences and hopes.
     The Second movement is a grotesque scherzo.  It sounds very similar to Shostakovich's first opera "The Nose".  Grotesqueness and a theater of absurdities are common artistic means to discuss taboo subjects, for example - to portray a regime of terror or the sick ambitions of world leaders.  This tradition was inherited by Shostakovich from Rimsky-Korsakov.
     When you hear the Third movement, you understand that Leningrad will never submit.   This music, placed by the composer in the very center of the symphony, represents its main
character.  The third movement is written in the simple three-part form with a solemn march
in the middle as an anticipation of the eventual victory.  The iron will, unity and confidence
are expressed in the first and the third sections of this three-part form by a mechanical exhausting run, which builds up to the major culmination of the symphony by the end of the third movement.
     It passes attacca to the Fourth, which is an equivalent of the slow, commonly second movement of the symphonic cycle.  Written in the ancient form of passacaglia - variations on the bass theme ostinato - the forth movement is the lyrical climax of the symphony.  The mechanical repetitions of the third part were replaced here by the very restrained basso ostinato.
     The Major key was reserved mostly for the Finale - the Fifth movement.  This is not a military or a funeral march, but very cheerful music, occasionally a waltz.  It is an anticipation of the post-war changes and humanism, which eventually will prevail.
     The perpetum mobile and tutti texture of the third movement coexist in the symphony with numerous solos in four other parts.  This idea of solos is developed and culminates in the coda of the fifth movement.  It symbolizes the blossoming of individualism - a prophesy and
an innermost wish by Shostakovich.

     Fedoseyev developed the USSR TV and Radio Large Symphony Orchestra for 26 years into one of the best Russian orchestras and made it internationally known by touring, before he was appointed as a principal conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in 1997.
     Fedoseyev also conducts leading orchestras in Germany (Orchester des Bayrischen Rundfunks, RSO Stuttgart, Staatsorchester Hamburg), in France (Orchestre National de France, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France), in Italy, Scandinavia and in  Switzerland.  The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra appointed him as their first guest conductor.
     Fedoseyev lived in Leningrad during the siege. It places his interpretation of the Eighth
Symphony by Shostakovich in a special category of personal experiences.  It is remarkable
that Symphony No. 8 was dedicated to and premiered by Evgeni Mravinsky in Moscow, in 1943.  He was a musical mentor and patron of Fedoseyev. Fedoseyev inherited from his teacher such virtues of the conducting art as perfect ensemble and balance in sound, discipline and the perfectionist's approach.  For those who attended his concerts, they will remain etched in their memory for a lifetime.  Imagine a great Russian orchestra performing  masterpieces from the Russian repertoire under the baton of a legendary Russian conductor.  It can't get much better!

2003 Evgeni Kostitsyn


Dmitry Shostakovich
(1906-1975)
Symphony No. 8 in C minor, Op. 65

  1. Adagio 24:21
  2. Allegretto 6:32
  3. Allegro non troppo 6:28
  4. Largo 8:37
  5. Allegretto 12:57

Total time 59:06

The USSR TV and Radio Large Symphony Orchestra
Conductor - Vladimir Fedoseev

cover painting "Suprematist Painting" by Malevich

Recorded live at the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory on May 5, in 1985.
Recording engineer - Shakhnazarian
Cover Design by Evgeni Kostitsyn