Culture: Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphonies 1 & 5 - London Philharmonic Orchestra/Kurt Masur (LPO-0001) Pounds 9.99

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Byline: Review by Clare Mackney

HHHHH This disc is the first of four used by the London Philharmonic Orchestra to launch its own CD label last September, and the precedent it sets is promising.

Of the two Shostakovich symphonies presented here, the Fifth (1937) is obviously the more mature and better-known work, forever destined to be perceived and debated in terms of its subtitle (not the composer's own) - 'A Soviet Artist's Reply to Just Criticism'.

Masur does not appear to be aiming for an obviously dramatic or ironic interpretation, except perhaps in the naove, almost droll feel of the Allegretto and the dogged, unbearably insistent build-up to the 'optimistic' close that the Soviet authorities required. Instead the strength of this reading lies in its more reflective episodes and particularly in the profoundly atmospheric and sometimes brittle stillness of the Largo, which generates a forceful impression of a mighty beast, licking its wounds. …