Andris Nelsons / Boston Symphony Orchestra SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 10
For the first instalment of a Shostakovich series titled Under Stalin’s Shadow, Andris Nelsons has chosen the composer’s monumental Tenth Symphony, prefaced with the startling “Passacaglia” from Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.
It’s a programme that effectively bookends Shostakovich’s relationship with Stalin: at the dictator’s behest, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District was denounced in 1936 as a “deliberately dissonant, confused stream of sound” – yet there’s no confusion discernible here, as lowering horns, brooding strings and dramatic percussion combine to drive home the air of looming menace.
But Shostakovich struggled to rehabilitate his reputation through his wartime symphonies, culminating in 1953 with Symphony No 10, which shares the mood of menace in “Passacaglia”. (Andy Gill)