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This is my favourite Shostakovich symphony but is, I know, one that many of the more committed Shostakovich listeners here tend to dismiss. I do greatly like some of the others - 5 and 10 especially and also the flawed 6 - but not so heartily as 14. Any other 14 lovers here? Or, for those who are less enamoured, why? What's wrong with it? Also, I wonder if anyone has knowledge about where it came from - why did Shostakovich suddenly go in such a different direction, for example? Was it the influence of his friend Britten?

As for performances, I have heard a great many but none seem to come close to the Rostropovich with Reshetin and Vishnevskaya (both singing really beautifully). Currentzis gives us a different take (neoclassical?) that I also enjoy.






 

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One of his best - and I regard Shosty as one of the greatest symphonists of all time.



It is a work for soprano, bass and a small string orchestra with percussion, consisting of eleven linked settings of poems by four authors. Most of the poems deal with the theme of death, particularly that of unjust or early death. The composer himself was initially unsure what to call the work, eventually designating it a symphony rather than a song cycle to emphasise the unity of the work musically and philosophically: most of the poems deal with the subject of mortality. I have a number of versions, but I'm always going back to the first one I heard, which has the added bonus that the poems are all sung in their original language. That version is by the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Bernard Haitink, with Julia Varady and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, on a Decca CD.
 

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I like the 14th a lot, but have difficulty envisioning it as a symphony in the way I can with Das Lied von der Erde or DSCH's own 13th. Because it consists of relatively short passages it feels like it has more in common with the orchestral versions of the later song cycles (Six Poems by Marina Tsevayeva op.143a and Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti op.145a), not least because the themes of death, despair and resignation seem to run through them all.

I came by it via Bernard Haitink's recording on Decca with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Júlia Várady. It's not my favourite, although I certainly think it's worth hanging onto because the work is sung in the original languages of the poems rather than Russian for them all, a version which the composer himself sanctioned. However, I think having all the poems sung in Russian plumbs even darker depths, and that is why I prefer the Melodiya recordings made by Rozhdestvensky (with Anatoly Safiulin and Makuala Kasrashubili) and Kondrashin (with Evgeny Nestorenko and Evgenya Tselovalnik).
 

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I concur with the Rozhdestvensky and Kondrashin nods. Terrific interpretations of a fascinating composition. I’m also keen on the Yuri Turovsky and the Neeme Jårvi.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
One of his best - and I regard Shosty as one of the greatest symphonists of all time.



It is a work for soprano, bass and a small string orchestra with percussion, consisting of eleven linked settings of poems by four authors. Most of the poems deal with the theme of death, particularly that of unjust or early death. The composer himself was initially unsure what to call the work, eventually designating it a symphony rather than a song cycle to emphasise the unity of the work musically and philosophically: most of the poems deal with the subject of mortality. I have a number of versions, but I'm always going back to the first one I heard, which has the added bonus that the poems are all sung in their original language. That version is by the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Bernard Haitink, with Julia Varady and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, on a Decca CD.
Yes indeed: the Haitink is a good one and I get the interesting idea of singing in the language of the original poetry. But the work is a Russian one so Haitink's recording can't "compete"! But it is good (I find "At The Sante Jail" particularly impressive) and Fischer-Dieskau is compelling. I think the down side of the language choice is more evident with Varady ... which may mean she sings more clearly?
 

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I like the 14th a lot, but have difficulty envisioning it as a symphony in the way I can with Das Lied von der Erde or DSCH's own 13th. Because it consists of relatively short passages it feels like it has more in common with the orchestral versions of the later song cycles (Six Poems by Marina Tsevayeva op.143a and Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti op.145a), not least because the themes of death, despair and resignation seem to run through them all.
That's interesting. It makes me think that I really don't know what a symphony is.
 

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I don't myself know of any Shostakovich lovers that dismiss no. 14. My general impression is -- providing you accept it as a bona fide symphony in the first place -- that it's among the most highly regarded and I would also rate it highly, especially "Tri Lilii". On the question of original language or Russian throughout, I am somewhat undecided though I don't think Haitink would be my first choice (this cycle is in general a bit too cool in Shostakovich for my taste).
 

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A dark, crazed narrative driven symphony, which I always enjoy playing alongside B.A. Zimmermann’s Ekklesiastische Aktion - Ich wandte mich um und sah alles Unrecht das geschah unter der Sonne - for some reason.

Galina Vishnevskaya is absolutely off her rocker…
 

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That's interesting. It makes me think that I really don't know what a symphony is.
I'm not sure I do either now that you've said that heh heh - but irrespective of the designation I think it works well enough as an inventive and powerful piece of music.
 

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Shosty's 14th?

On June 2, 2014, I wrote the following in a thread on this Forum:

Shostakovich's 14th Symphony ranks high in "gloom and doom". In fact, I believe it was musical commentator Jim Svejda on his radio program "The Record Shelf" who warned about this painfully dark symphony that no one should listen to it more than a couple of times a lifetime or it might provoke suicide. Well, I've heard it more than a few times and am still here. But I do put away out of reach all sharp objects each time I pop a copy of that work into my CD deck or onto my turntable.

Hope that's helpful for someone.
 

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A dark, crazed narrative driven symphony, which I always enjoy playing alongside B.A. Zimmermann’s Ekklesiastische Aktion - Ich wandte mich um und sah alles Unrecht das geschah unter der Sonne - for some reason.

Galina Vishnevskaya is absolutely off her rocker…
The Zimmermann is too hard for me without the text in a language I understand, it just ends up sounding like someone shouting in a foreign language, though I can tell it’s not uninteresting music. Do you know if the CD has a translation into English or French? It may be one of these things which is inaccessible really without a spontaneous grasp of the meaning.
 

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I like the 14th a lot, but have difficulty envisioning it as a symphony in the way I can with Das Lied von der Erde or DSCH's own 13th. Because it consists of relatively short passages it feels like it has more in common with the orchestral versions of the later song cycles (Six Poems by Marina Tsevayeva op.143a and Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti op.145a), not least because the themes of death, despair and resignation seem to run through them all.
It's interesting to note that DSCH considered calling the Michelangelo songs his 16th Symphony.
If he had done so, it would certainly have given this masterpiece the much needed exposure (since it would be included in complete symphony sets). I'm sure the 2nd and 3rd would be completely obscure works now if they had been called "symphonic cantata" or something and not included in the official list. Now we're saddled with literally dozens of recordings of these mediocre works (which DSCH grew to dislike himself), while you can count recordings of the Michelangelo songs on the fingers of one hand.
On the other hand, there's something comforting in the perfect symmetry of 15 symphonies and 15 string quartets... (not to mention the pairs of piano sonatas, piano trios, piano, violin and cello concertos).
 

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It's interesting to note ... there's something comforting in the perfect symmetry of 15 symphonies and 15 string quartets... (not to mention the pairs of piano sonatas, piano trios, piano, violin and cello concertos).
One of my favorite "marathons" through my years of listening to music, often in planned, scheduled manners such as marathons based on chronological or numerical orders, is that of taking on the Shosty Symphonies alternating with the String Quartets in numerical order: Symphony 1, SQ 1, Symphony 2, SQ 2, etc. Revelatory.

I like to think of the Symphonies as Shostakovich's public statements and the S.Q.s as his most intimate, personal statements, and though that assumption is likely faulty in many ways, it makes for an intriguing premise (however fictional it may be) in a marathon listening session as described above. Try one symphony and one string quartet a day for two weeks and a day. (You still have to get past Symphonies 2 and 3, but it really gets intriguing after that!)
 
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