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Discussion: Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 1-15 - Kitajenko

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Post by Dinko May 24, 2005 (1 of 91)
A lot of info on this project can be found in German on the conductor's website:

The English page is still in preparation.

Post by Dinko June 9, 2005 (2 of 91)
Got this today.

The CDs are in standard "Super Jewel" cases (you know, the ones with rounded corners). Recording dates go back as far as 2002. Some are live, others studio. No mention of origins (PCM or DSD).

Kind of weird: Symphonies 6, 7 & 9 are in the same double-disc jewel box. Sym #7 is spread out over 2 discs. Movements 1 & 2 are on disc 1 with Sym 6, while movements 3 & 4 are on disc 2 with Sym 9. Seems a little silly. Wonder why they did that. Seems more logical to put Sym 6 & 9 on one disc, and Sym 7 on its own - it only runs for 75 minutes).

Haven't listened to the set yet, but from looking at the track titles, Kitajenko seems a little slower than average in most movements, although track times can be misleading as to the actual performance.

Post by brenda June 9, 2005 (3 of 91)
Dinko said: Got this today.
dear dinko, looking forward to your review. B.

Post by Beagle June 9, 2005 (4 of 91)
brenda said:

dear dinko, looking forward to your review. B.

Hi Dinko, Brenda,

The set isn't released yet, so how, Dinko, did you get yours?

I have been precipitous, and placed an order (, just because their pre-release price was SO much less than everyone else's. At a per-disc cost, I can't really lose; musically I just purchased a big pig-in-a-poke. I promise I'll be more cautious next time (but I really can't resist a bargain).


Post by Dinko June 9, 2005 (5 of 91)
I don't know if it's released or not, but I know I got a package from jpc with the SACDs in it. ;)

Post by brenda June 10, 2005 (6 of 91)
Dinko said:I got a package from jpc with the SACDs in it. ;)
dear dinko, i appreciate that it's way too early for you to review the set, but would it be possible to post some preliminary impressions on Forum? Regards, B.

Post by robstl June 10, 2005 (7 of 91)
brenda said:

dear dinko, i appreciate that it's way too early for you to review the set, but would it be possible to post some preliminary impressions on Forum? Regards, B.

Hello - like Dinko, I got the set from jpc; it arrived a couple of weeks ago. I'm about 2/3 of the way through a first listen to the set (1,2,4,6,8,9,10,11,12,15) in multichannel. It's the best-sounding Shostakovich cycle I've heard (and I'm a compulsive collector of 'em :-). The clarity, warmth, and power are amazing. The balance tends to favor the strings, which are full and rich, but still incisive and powerful, and you'll hear nuances you haven't heard before. It's fairly close, 3rd or 4th row back sound, and remarkably consistent, given the different venues. Details, like the soft percussion in 10/iii, are fantastic. There's quite a bit of rear channel use for hall sound; I find it very involving, not distracting. Occasionally an instrument is overly centered (e.g. factory siren in 2). The orchestra is excellent. The conducting is very good; occasionally I wished for a louder trumpet or horn here or there, or more aggressiveness here or there, nothing major. I can't generalize about tempo -- some are a bit fast, some a bit slower than average, but none is bizarre so far. Kitajenko is very good at holding tension with a slower tempo, e.g. 6/i, 8/i, 10/ii&iv. Minor presentation problems: there is one brief, not particularly bothersome sonic flaw in the 12th, and some of the booklets had wrong or misprinted pages in them. Review to follow soon, I hope, with some comparisons to other single Shostakovich SACDs. The short version, keeping in mind I haven't finished listening yet, is -- here are Shostakovich's complete symphonies, in the best sound they've ever had, in very good (and occasionally _best_) performances. Enjoy!

Post by brenda June 10, 2005 (8 of 91)
robstl said: Hello - like Dinko, I got the set from jpc
dear robstl, many thanks, - i am interested because i wasn't overwhelmed by the Kitajenko 8th when it was released on its own, though the sound was excellent. It just didn't excite me. Are the other readings more gripping than the 8th? Also, I have some of the Gergiev SACDs from Philips, - how do the Kitajenko compare as readings and for sound? Regards, B.

Post by Dinko June 10, 2005 (9 of 91)
What robstl said.


Relative to Gergiev... Kitajenko rules!
The Gergiev Style: slow movements really slow and really soft, fast movements really fast and really loud. The Philips SACDs don't sound the same (Sym #7 & Sym 9 don't sound too bad, but I'm not impressed by #5 & #4).

Kitajenko is more contained. Instead of hitting you with a loud bang after a soft passage, Kitajenko builds it up to a climax (not necessarily a very loud or fast one).

I prefer Kitajenko's live recordings over the studio ones. Can't find much of a difference in stereo, but in multichannel, I find the live recordings have more bloom, air and a more naturally rounded sonority than the studio recordings (most obvious in the lower brass). The difference is minor, but noticeable.
The orchestra is reallly nice:
- good sonority (doesn't sound like a "regional" band)
- they play pretty well (there are some sloppy brass cacks in Sym #5, but generally little to complain about)
- they really adapt to the music (from lovely & tender to raw, rugged and vulgar just as the music calls for)

From two complete listens and some selective comparisons, I'd say this is highly recommended. My benchmark sonic comparisons have tended to be the Goldsmith discs (Nemesis & Timeline), Kreizberg's & Fischer's Dvorak 9, Harnoncourt's Bruckner 9th, and some of the MTT/SFS Mahler entries. Kitajenko's cycle easily matches those. In terms of regular CD, I think the very best sounding Shostakovich disc ever released was Myung Whun Chung's Shostakovich 4th with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Too bad DGG didn't finish that cycle.

Performance-wise, from what I've heard till now, none of Kitajenko's individual symphonies will replace old favourites... Ormandy's 4th, Jansons' 11th, Kondrashin's 5th, Järvi's 12th, Masur's 7th, etc.
However, Kitajenko's is simply put the best on-going Shostakovich cycle out there. Caetani's isn't too bad (what's been released so far), but the sound is bizarre (excessive spotlighting on some instruments, the DVDA with Syms 5 & 6 suffers from digitalitis). Kofman's is incredibly bland and boring presented in a lovely reverberant church-like acoustic (MDG should really stop issuing those before they complete the most uninteresting Shostakovich cycle ever recorded). Gergiev.... well Gergiev's is for Gergiev fans.
I prefer the Kondrashin and Barshai cycles over Kitajenko, but all three are quite good.

Post by robstl June 11, 2005 (10 of 91)
Dinko said:

What robstl said.


What Dinko said! :-)

Like Dinko, I have a lot of old favorites (Jarvi 4th, Ashkenazy 7th/10th/11th, Mravinsky 8th and 12th, Kondrasin 13th, Rostropovich 14th, Rozhdestvensky 15th). My favorite set, in terms of _performance_, is Rozhdestvensky's. Ashkenazy's almost complete set (-13th, 14th) was my previous favorite of sound/performance combined.

So far, I'd put the Kitajenko _performances_ of 1, 6, and 9 up against anyone. All the others I've heard so far are very good (I like his way with the 8th, FWIW). I'll try to put comparisons to other SACD performances in my review.

The difference, though, is the sound. Rozhdestvensky, Mravinsky, Kondrashin are all in dated (and, in Rozhdestvensky's case, truly strange!) sound. Haitink and Jarvi had some great-sounding recordings for their time, but Kitajenko's set is just so much superior sonically. Kitajenko doesn't conduct like Rozhdestvensky, it's true, but he's very good, and it sounds as though his fine orchestra has set up in front of me, with a nice concert hall all around me!

I agree with Dinko that the live performances have an airier, more natural sound. The live performances have occasional audience or stage noise, nothing bothersome so far.

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