, January 2009
Slovák’s account of No.14 is one of the finest, strongly characterized in each of the 11 contrasted movements with the help of two superb soloist. Mikuláš is just as strong and individual as in No.13, and Hajóssyová, with her frim, Slavoni mezzo, is equally idiomatic. Regularly, Slovák and his performers bring out the menace behind the composer’s inspiration on the theme of death, with the fourth song, ‘The Suicide’, particularly moving in its tenderness. The booklet gives a summary of each poem, but no texts or translations. Full, immediately sound.
This was the symphony which Shostakovich dedicated to Britten, and this Snape Maltings performance of 1970 with the ECO conducted by Britten was the first outside Russia. Galina Vishnevskaya’s sharply distinctive soprano has rarely sounded so rich or firmly focused on disc, and the bass, Mark Rezhetin, firm and dark, sings gloriously too. The tensions of a live performance add to the drama, poignantly so, when both Britten and Shostakovich were facing terminal illness.