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Robert Benson, December 2010

No question whatever that Yuri Temirkanov (b. 1938) is one of the most respected conductors of the day. Since 1988 he has been chief conductor of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, and frequently conducts other major orchestras of the world. This DVD is a live performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10, from the Verbier Festival in Switzerland July 23, 2009. It’s a dynamic reading as one would suspect. The young orchestra is excellent, although not quite at the level of the astounding Gustavo Dudamel/Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra at the BBC Proms (which hopefully soon will appear on DVD). The young players at the Festival respond vigorously to Temirkanov’s direction, but it is rather odd to watch him conduct: most of the time his eyes are buried in the score and there is limited eye contact, so important for a conductor/orchestra relationship. But the results speak for themselves. What happened to the rest of the concert? What was it, and why wasn’t it included? Surely the program included at least one other work and there is plenty of room for it.

Robert Cummings
Classical Net, December 2010

The Verbier Festival Orchestra is a training orchestra; an ensemble consisting of about 100 musicians aged 17 to 29. The Festival website divulges that more than 1,000 musicians applied for a post in the orchestra for the 2010 concerts. Thus, the listener is hearing the cream of the crop among student and young musicians from across the globe. This performance attests to the collective talent of the 2009 ensemble, despite some nervous playing from the horns.

The Tenth is one of the Shostakovich’s greatest symphonies. The first movement may be the composer’s finest symphonic movement, both structurally and musically, and the ensuing Scherzo, supposedly a depiction of Josef Stalin, is also a gripping creation. But the third movement has some static moments and the first half of the finale, an Andante struggling to get to its Allegro portion, can test your patience. Still, the work as a whole is quite compelling and in a good performance is fully worthwhile.

Here, Temirkanov draws a spirited, if sometimes flawed performance from his young Verbier players. The strings may be the best part of this group, although most sections acquit themselves quite well, despite occasional but not damaging sloppiness. The first flute was superb throughout. The horns, as suggested above, had a few imprecisions, most notably in the first movement.

As for Temirkanov’s view of the work, I can say his tempos were judicious in their moderate to brisk character, his sense of the work’s dramatic flow intense, and his grip on Shostakovich’s idiom here—that ability to move from the work’s tragedy and terror to its triumph and exultation—is spot on. Of all the Shostakovich Tenths I’ve heard, which include Karajan, Ormandy, Andrew Davis, Berglund, Haitink, Slovak, Barshai and others, this one may well be a contender of sorts. These young kids play with real spirit, and if they don’t have the precision of the Berlin or Philadelphia ensembles, they still impart a real sense of commitment. The sound reproduction is good and the camera work fine.

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1:06:47 PM, 30 August 2015
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