Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shostakovich: Second and Third Symphonies

Cover design by Lorraine Fox
This is the first time that I have offered a stereophonic recording on this blog, one that I feel is deserving of wider circulation than it is currently receiving.  These, the two poor stepchildren of Shostakovich's symphonic oeuvre, which the composer himself essentially disowned, have never received more persuasive performances than on this 1968 release conducted by Morton Gould.  They have seldom been recorded at all, except in complete cycles of Shostakovich's symphonies (on the other hand, these are the only Shostakovich symphonies Gould recorded), and most of these recordings seem to take the attitude that, yes, this music is junk, but these symphonies are part of one of the most important 20th-century cycles and therefore can't be ignored, so let's make the music sound more important than it is and hope nobody notices.  A fatal approach, if you ask me.  Gould, a fine composer of much fun music himself, understood that the way to make this music come off was to have fun with it.  After all, Shostakovich was a young man in his early 20s when he wrote it, and in the relatively carefree days before Stalin put his stranglehold over all the arts, nose-thumbing was an essential part of Shostakovich's musical nature.  Even the ridiculous words are an object of fun for Gould's chorus - just listen to the way they belt out the final line of the Second Symphony - "October, Communism, and LEHHHHHHH-NIN!"

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 2, Op. 14 ("To October") and
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 3, Op. 20 ("May Day")
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Morton Gould
Issued in 1968
RCA Red Seal LSC-3044, one stereo LP record
Link (FLAC file [Symphony No. 2], 104.22 MB)
Link (FLAC file [Symphony No. 3], 156.68 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 73.41 MB)

If anyone knows recording details for this release, I would certainly like to hear about it.


  1. what are the credits for producer & engineer?

  2. Большое спасибо.

  3. The UK release (SB 6755 mastered by Decca) had no recording details (either): but this, as with some others @ that time, was recorded by PYE.

    Producer: John Snashall / Engineer: Bob Auger
    Recorded: Walthamstow Town Hall (?)

    Rediscovery Records released this (RD 146: LP transfer?)- paying a fee for a limited production-run...

  4. Hi Bryan,

    Terrific choice! I had it on my to-do list but you saved me the trouble. Thanks!


  5. From various things I've read about Morton Gould's politics, I suspect that he was dead serious and supportive of these pieces, so the "satire" Bryan suggests would not have been in his mind at all--I think he was a very sincere supporter of the Bolshevik revolutionary politics!

    If the production team was Snashall/Auger, then this explains the EXTREMELY artificial, glary recording technique, with multimiking and HEAVY compression (not to mention the boosted highs); more of the Pye type than the authentic Decca type sound, eh? The other release from the same time -- Igor Buketoff's 1812 Overture -- same team, had the identical artificial sound quality, miles BELOW anything that Decca ever did (including Phase 4!)

    S. - retired recording engineer

  6. These are terrific. Thank you. Always wanted to hear them. Your work is splendid as usual. Thanks, again.

  7. Just learned via CHARM (why didn't I have the sense to consult them earlier?) that the Second Symphony, at least, was recorded April 8, 1968, in Watford Town Hall. Oddly, they list the Second but not the Third!