Mstislav Rostropovich, London Symphony Orchestra, Dmitri Shostakovich, Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8

Gavin Borchert

By Gavin Borchert

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8

Mstislav Rostropovich, London Symphony Orchestra, Dmitri Shostakovich
A powerful work inspired by dark times.

Shostakovich maintained that World War II, for all its horrors and privations, was in a perverse way a relief for Soviet citizens: They were at last allowed to grieve openly in a way they hadn't been able to during the mass-psychosis years of Stalin's Terror. For Shostakovich, this grieving took the form of his Eighth Symphony: his darkest symphony and in the opinion of some his finest. Under the baton of conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, who experienced these times firsthand as a child, the symphony's bleak passages are benumbed and hollow, while the aggressive ones evoke a heavy-handed savagery that surely, in Rostropovich's mind, as in Shostakovich's, was connected to the Soviet regime itself.