Dmitri Shostakovich – The Execution of Stepan Razin, Zoya Suite & Suite on Finnish Themes – Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Ashkenazy (2013) [Official Digital Download 24bit/44,1kHz]

Dmitri Shostakovich – The Execution of Stepan Razin, Zoya Suite & Suite on Finnish Themes – Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Ashkenazy (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 01:05:37 minutes | 598 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: eClassical | © Ondine Oy, Helsinki
Recorded: 2013, Helsinki Music Centre, Finland

Shostakovich’s cantata The Execution of Stepan Razin is a moving and exciting late work audibly related to the Thirteenth Symphony, “Babi Yar”. Both use texts by Yevtushenko, and yet the cantata never has enjoyed the same degree of popularity and critical regard. The reason may be that it’s too long to serve as a coupling with the symphony, and Shostakovich never wrote anything else like it. His previous Socialist Realist choral works, like The Song of the Forests, are too obviously ideological in content, but Razin would make a terrific piece coupled to, say, Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky.

In any case, Vladimir Ashkenazy has chosen a different route and assembled a very smart program. Zoya is a wartime film that tells the story of a young girl who dies fighting the Germans. The suite has five substantial movements, one of which, the battle scene, bears a striking thematic resemblance to the “Stalin Scherzo” of the Tenth Symphony. Like the cantata, the work employs a choir, and it contains some rousing and very effective music. The recently discovered, brief Suite on Finnish Themes was given its recording premiere on BIS a few years ago, and fills out the program nicely.

On the whole, these are excellent performances. Bass-baritone Shenyang is a very impressive soloist, comfortable with the language, and he delivers the text of Stepan Razin with a firm tone and total conviction. The choir sings with clarity and bite, and the orchestra plays powerfully, if perhaps without the last degree of sheer volume at the climaxes. Soloists Mari Palo and Tuomas Katajala handle their roles in the Finnish Suite with warmth and easy style. The engineering is well-balanced and natural. This release is a valuable addition to the Shostakovich discography. –David Hurwitz,


Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

1 The Execution of Stepan Razin. Poem for bass, chorus and symphony orchestra, Op. 119 (1964) 25:34

Zoya Suite, Op. 64a (1944)
2 I Introduction (Song about Zoya) 8:10
3 II Scene (Combat Mission) 5:03
4 III Prelude (Tragedy of a Loss) 5:22
5 IV March (Hero’s Victory) 4:24
6 V Finale (The Heroine’s Immortality) 5:47

Suite on Finnish Themes
7 I Energico 0:52
8 II The Sky is Blue and White (Taivas on sininen ja valkoinen) 1:13
9 III Lento non troppo 1:49
10 IV The Girls of this Village (Tämän kylän tytöt) 1:56
11 V The Strawberry is a Red Berry (Mansikka on punanen marja) 1:06
12 VI If I could be at Leisure (Jos mie saisin jouten olla) 2:24
13 VII My Beloved is Beautiful (Minun kultani kaunis on) 1:57

Shenyang, bass-baritone
Mari Palo, soprano
Tuomas Katajala, tenor
State Choir “Latvija”
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Ashkenazy, conductor