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American Record Guide, February 2007

Is this a CD set with substantially expanded album notes or a book with two accompanying CDs? The booklet contains an excellent monograph by Richard Whitehouse that concisely sketches the life, times, and art of the composer with insight and clarity in 92 jewel-caseĀ­sized pages. References to the two dozen music cues on the CDs, drawn from Naxos's vast catalog, are interspersed at appropriate spots in the narrative. The musical excerpts are not bleeding fragments but whole movements, so the listener at least gets to experience the logic and progression of largely self-contained musical units. Whitehouse does an outstanding job of packing the maximum of information into the short booklet; though, of course, he cannot explore the music with the same depth and thoroughness that David Hurwitz goes to in his excellent listening guide reviewed in this issue. The booklet also lists the catalog numbers of the Naxos releases containing the complete works to help the listener embark on further exploration of the music.

David Green
May 2006

Normally, I would be loath to even listen to someone's mish-mash of "the best of," especially a composer like Dmitry Shostakovich. It took years for me to begin to like any of his compositions, let alone enjoy them. However, it must be admitted that this two-CD collection works as a sampler. There are movements from symphonies and concerti, string quartets, and several solo piano pieces. Probably the selling point is the inclusion of some of Shostakovich's movie music and lighter short works. Among them are his "Festive Overture in A Major", saluting the Russian Revolution; "Tahiti Trot", with its ribald variations on "Tea for Two"; "Fantastic Dances, Opus 5"; the "Saxophone's Waltz" from "Jazz Suite No. 2"; and the "Romance" from "The Gadfly Suite", which endeared itself to many as the theme for the old TV series, Riley, Ace of Spies. Excerpts from Shostakovich's heavier works are nicely presented and might encourage some to further listening.

Jeff Simon
The Buffalo News, March 2006

Naxos also released Dmitry Shostakovich: A Portrait, a collection of 26 tracks that feature Shostakovich playing his own works and an excerpt from a 1941 radio address. A richly-illustrated booklet containing a detailed essay by Richard Whitehouse accompanies the 2-CD set.

Jeff Simon of the Buffalo News wrote the following review, published on March 26th:

Don't reject this two-disc set out of hand. It's true that, of all 20th century composers, Shostakovich may be the one who least tolerates being turned into snippets arrayed on CD in a sampler. If ever there was a composer whose works demand to be heard in full to get any understanding of their profound, secular, spiritual and epic drama, it is Shostakovich (much more amenable to piecemeal jukebox treatment, in fact, would have been his Russian contemporary Prokofiev). But these Naxos "portraits" are always very impressively done. This is a solid basic piecemeal presentation of the 20th century master who seems to be the modern composer who currently prevails in the 21st. More of the string quartet music would have been smarter but you'll find the composer himself here in 1951-52 recordings of his solo piano works and a 1941 radio address from Leningrad.

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