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Mark Wigglesworth

Shostakovich Symphony No.8

Shostakovich Symphony No.8

The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

“After a four-year gap, Wigglesworth resumes a Shostakovich cycle that began in 1997 with an impressive Symphony No 7, given with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. With the wartime Eighth — as much an indictment of Stalin as of Hitler — he has turned to the excellent Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. That vast, tragic arch of a first movement is typically unhurried and deeply affecting, while the sharp savagery of the first scherzo and the screeching relentlessness of the second are reinforced by Wigglesworth’s ability to give even frenetic music its space. Some might prefer more rawness at such moments, but the bleak slow movement and the ambivalent finale cement a fine performance of deep understanding.”
Stephen Pettit, The Sunday Times, November 2005

“Once the least-loved of all of Shostakovich’s symphonies for its apparent refusal to celebrate Russia’s victory in the war, the tragic Eighth is now a favourite in the canon. Mark Wigglesworth and the leading Dutch broadcasting orchestra do nothing if not enhance this change. They play the gripping central movement with the precision of an unstoppable machine, the trumpet zipping up its scales like a bullfight herald. The quote at the start of a theme from the Seventh Symphony was never so clearly made, and the ferocity of the first and fourth movements is positively bestial…Wigglesworth touches the major key transformation at the conclusion with magical hands, and one wonders how the Russians could have dismissed it so.”
Rick Jones, The Times, November 2005

“Mark Wigglesworth obviously knows his way around this music, and he shapes a powerful and intelligent performance. The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic…play like demons in the first movement’s development section, ultimately arriving at a recapitulation of aptly crushing force…The scherzo has superb weight and rhythmic drive. In the toccata, Wigglesworth finds an ideal tempo: swift enough to be threatening, but also coldly mechanical, with the strings really biting into their parts. A touch of wholly apt vibrato from the solo trumpet in the central section gives the music just the right touch of parade-ground militancy, and the catastrophic climax at the end (with audibly covered timpani, as Shostakovich indicates) segues beautifully into a benumbed passacaglia that never drags…The playing of the woodwinds in the finale, particularly the bassoons and oboes, is simply magnificent, and once again Wigglesworth resists the tendency to linger interminably over its more elegiac moments. The exhausted recapitulation after the final climax is exactly right, and the gentle coda has all of that touching, emotional ambiguity that makes this symphony so moving an experience. Excellent sonics, both in stereo and multichannel formats, help to make this a performance that truly delivers the goods.”
David Hurwitz, Classics Today, November 2005