Classical CD Reviews

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No.13 in B flat minor, Op.113 “Babi Yar” (1962) for bass solo, chorus and orchestra – Sergei Aleksashkin,bass/ Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks/ Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks/ Mariss Jansons – EMI

Highly charged and heroic cantata-like work with words by Yvtushenko

Published on December 4, 2005

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No.13 in B flat minor, Op.113 “Babi Yar” (1962) for bass solo, chorus and orchestra – Sergei Aleksashkin,bass/ Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks/ Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks/ Mariss Jansons – EMI
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No.13 in B flat minor, Op.113 “Babi Yar”
(1962) for bass solo, chorus and orchestra – Sergei Aleksashkin,bass/
Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks/ Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen
Rundfunks/ Mariss Jansons – EMI 7 24355 79022 4/ 1 ****:

Yvtushenko published his poem Babi Yar in September 1961. Based

upon the 1941 massacre of 100,000 mostly Jews, the piece
revealed an artist at last willing to criticise openly the rampant
antisemitism of Soviet society. Shostakovich was moved  by the
courage and humanism displayed by Yvtushenko. The Khruschev
administraiton had attempted to remove all evidence of the atrocity,
building a road over the great ravine, Babi Yar, northwest of Kiev,
which contained the corpses of  those destroyed. Yvtushenko’s
opening line points a finger at the officials responsible. “There is no
monument above Babi Yar.” Further on: “There is no Jewish blood in my
blood, but I feel the loathsome hatred of all anti-semites as though I
were a Jew – and that is why I am a true Russian,” Yvtushenko and
Shostakovitch proved themselves true heroes of the Russian people!

More  a cantata than a symphony, Op.113 is in five sections, each
based on a Yvtushenko poem: Babi Yar: Adagio, Humor: Allegretto, In the
Store: Adagio, Fears: Adagio, A career: Allegretto. First performed to
a wildly enthusiastic audience on December 18, 1962, the work was
stifled until a new version with “alterations” by Yvtushenko appeared
at a  Moscow performance of November 20,1965 (this live
performance may be found on Everest LP 3181). The score, with original
text restored, was finally published in 1970. It is this restoration
(printed in the note booklet) which has been recorded with absolute
authority and committment by the fine orchestra and chorus of the
Bavarian State Radio conducted by Mariss Jansons and ably partnered by
the magnificent Russian basso, Sergei Aleksashkin.

Very well recorded in January, 2005, by EMI, this is a highly charged,
idiomatic performance replete with bitter irony, pathos and a pervasive
sense of the triumph of the will of the Russian people against gross
evil. Here is a heroic voice boldly crying out against brutal
injustice!  Most heady stuff this is.  A must
recording!                             
                                                                                                                                                                                                  
- Ronald Legum
 




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