Shostakovich's Symphony No.8 was written in the summer of 1943, and first performed in November of that year by the USSR Symphony Orchestra under Yevgeny Mravinsky, to whom the work is dedicated. Many scholars have ranked it among the composer's finest scores. Some also say Shostakovich intended the work as a ''tragedy to triumph'' symphony, in the tradition of Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler. This release in Praga's Reminiscences series of audiophile SACD remasterings features an historic live recording from 1961 featuring Mravinsky leading the Leningrad Philharmonic.
Shostakovich's Symphony No.5 was given its premiere in 1937. It was outwardly in compliance with the ruling party, but the public heard a message of suffering in Shostakovich's masterpiece and it was an unprecedented triumph. Symphony No.12 "The Year 1917" was dedicated to Vladimir Lenin. Both works were premiered by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Yevgeny Mravinsky. The performances featured here were recorded in December 1965.
Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony is 50 minutes of tragedy, despair, terror, and violence and three minutes of triumph. Premiered in 1953, the best performance is still that conducted by Mravinsky. Yevgeny Mravinsky's June 3, 1955, performance with the Leningrad Philharmonic of Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 is just as great. Mravinsky was the best Soviet conductor and his passionate precision and intense interpretations were as valid for Beethoven as they were for Shostakovich. His interpretations can be hard-driven and sharp-edged, but no one could object to the lucid strength and linear lyricism he brings to the work.
Few new pieces of music in the 20th century have received the kind of celebrity accorded the Shostakovich Symphony No. 7 when it arrived in America. At a time when Russia was seen in a somewhat friendly light by the allied nations, this supposed depiction of the siege of Leningrad was seized upon by the press as a vital cog in the war effort. The composer, clad in military fireman's garb, graced the cover of Time magazine, and Toscanini and Stokowski fought tooth and nail to get the premiere American performance. (Toscanini got his hands on the manuscript first, and Stokowski gave the second performance a few days later.) Here is a Soviet studio recording from the 1950s by Evgeny Mravinsky, the conductor most closely associated with Shostakovich during his lifetime. It is a strong performance with plenty of impact and the Leningrad Philharmonic in good form, and while live Mravinsky versions of several of the symphonies exist in abundance, there are none of the Seventh, making this disc especially valuable.