Manfred Honeck explains his interpretive approach in this SACD’s program notes. The opening bars and following principal theme of the first movement of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 reflect rage, then sadness. Mahler’s influence is present throughout, but especially in the second movement, which Honeck describes as a “vigorous and rustic Ländler.” The third movement is the emotional core, reflecting Shosakovich’s personal feelings in a “pure and musical manner,” devoid of any subtext. The fourth movement returns to Shostakovich’s “world of ambiguity, irony, and sarcasm.” The triumph at the end is skeletal in that it “does not depict the victory of a free human, but rather a person under the extreme pressure of an inhuman regime.” Whether or not you agree with Honeck’s subjective choices, it is clear that he has studied the music extensively. The interpretation effectively reflects his stated ideas, but the music is conducted and recorded with an element of restraint that may sound too laid back for some listeners. Sonically, this is not to be confused with Keith Johnson’s masterpieces, but it is one of the best recordings that Soundmirror has engineered for Reference Recordings.
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