"Naxos' bargain-priced but far from bargain-performance set of all the Shostakovich symphonies makes a wonderful addition to any serious collection of 20th century music - or of symphonies in general. Slovak, one of Shostakovich's favorite conductors, adds a fine sense of thoughtfulness, balance and first-desk virtuosity in an 11-CD set that often rises to real eloquence despite the competent but scarcely lush sound of the Czecho-Slovak Symphony Orchestra.
The single best performance here is arguably Symphony No. 9, Shostakovich's end-of-war work from 1945 that Stalin expected to be triumphant but that is instead filled with wit, irony and sinister touches. Slovak and his players are intense and well-organized here, plumbing all the music's depths and keeping its barbs sharp. At just about an equally high level is No. 14, where excellent singing by bass Peter Mikulas and soprano Magdalena Hajossyova brings real character and depth of feeling to the sprawling 11-movement work, written in 1969 and dedicated to Benjamin Britten -- as the extensive and well-informed liner notes point out.
Bottom line: fascinating if not necessarily great music, mostly well played, very well priced."