It is appropriate that the first recording of the first version of Forza should come from St Petersburg, where the work had its premiere in 1862. However, whilst the premiere was predominantly an Italian affair, this set is given entirely by Russian artists. The differences between this version and Verdi's 1869 revision for La Scala are marked: they are delineated by two essays in the accompanying booklet but even more discerningly in Julian Budden's indispensable The Operas of Verdi (in this case Vol. 2, Cassell: 1978). So it isn't necessary for me to rehearse here all the changes (even if I had the space to do so), only the main ones.
While this set of Shostakovich's Fourth through Ninth symphonies is billed as his "War" symphonies, these six works could be more aptly identified as his "Terror and War" symphonies. After all, the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth were composed in the years before the "Great Patriotic War" during the period called the "Great Terror," that period of Soviet history in which Stalin attempted to liquidate everyone he ever remotely suspected of having an unkind thought about him. Still, these six symphonies do form a cogent group of works that describe with extremely painful exactitude the horror of living through one of the most horrific decades in twentieth century history, qualities that Russian conductor Valery Gergiev captures with excruciating effectiveness.