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Brian Buerkle
American Record Guide, March 2012

Petrenko seems very sure of his intentions with Shostakovich. These recordings will appeal to many listeners, and the orchestra is on the top of their game. His Sixth is excellent, a sure keeper; the 12th is too—with all its bombast and glory… © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

Raymond Tuttle
Fanfare, March 2012

this work seems to have been calculated to please the Soviet government and to put the composer in its good graces…[Petrenko]…makes no apologies for this symphony. He does not impose an ex post facto interpretation upon it. He plays it cleanly and with the excitement of an amusement park ride that puts its riders in no danger, even if it makes their pulses race. In short, this is a very objective reading… © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Leslie Wright
MusicWeb International, January 2012

Petrenko here does not disappoint. He captures all the power and bleakness of the opening movement with a tempo that is slower than most. The playing of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic is beyond reproach. Many consider the Twelfth to be Shostakovich’s weakest symphony, and I am not one to disagree with this opinion in general. Yet, I must say that Vasily Petrenko in this blistering account almost convinces me otherwise. I have listened to it several times and, though the ending is almost too bombastic to bear, Petrenko brings out all kinds of detail to make the work interesting… I know I will turn to Petrenko just to appreciate what he has done to make the symphony palatable. I won’t be tossing out my Haitink recording of these symphonies, but Petrenko’s accounts must now take pride of place. At budget price, this disc is unmissable. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Robert Benson, January 2012

performances are outstanding with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in top form—string articulation is quite remarkable… © 2012 Read complete review

David Nice
BBC Music Magazine, December 2011

Superlative standards already set by this team’s Shostakovich cycle couldn’t afford to slip in a symphony as great as the Sixth. In the first movement, at least, Vasily Petrenko and the Liverpudlians reach new heights of articulation and sonic beauty. Bronzed unisons branch out into deeply expressive counterpoint, the premature climax hits hard and the trills, which Shostakovich boldly extends from the world of the Fifth Symphony, are carefully characterised; the flutes hover wanly over them like the vital breath of air in a sealed tomb, after which the horn’s note of false hope makes a devastating fade.

David Hurwitz, December 2011

Vasily Petrenko leads a first movement that beats just about everyone in terms of sheer excitement…

Through it all the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic plays splendidly, and is excellently recorded. This Shostakovich series is shaping up as one of the best, make no mistake. © Read complete review, November 2011

Vasily Petrenko is an outstanding Shostakovich conductor, and his continued march through the symphonies remains a joy to hear—even when he conducts, as he must in doing a cycle, works in which Shostakovich was not at his best. One such is Symphony No. 12, “The Year 1917,” of which even the composer did not think all that much. A celebration of events of the Bolshevik Revolution, in four movements played continuously, it is a work of somewhat surprising classical balance (which Petrenko brings out nicely), but one that ultimately seems not to have much to say… The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is becoming more comfortable with Shostakovich’s style as this cycle progresses, and if it lacks the sumptuous string tone of the best Russian orchestras, it makes up for it with precision of attacks and excellent sectional balance. This is particularly clear in Symphony No. 6, a better and more interesting work than No. 12…one that pulsates with intensity in Petrenko’s heartfelt reading. Warm, emotional, thoughtful and tense, the movement pulls listeners into one of Shostakovich’s most interesting sound worlds… This is…gripping symphony that Petrenko and the Liverpudlians handle with consummate skill. Read complete review

Anastasia Tsioulcas
National Public Radio, November 2011

For this sixth volume of their complete Shostakovich symphony cycle, conductor Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra have a task and a half at hand: transforming two works—among Shostakovich’s weakest conceptually and architecturally—into forceful, persuasive and galvanizing performances.

They manage this feat just fine, capturing the sweep of the massive, nearly 20-minute Largo (!) that opens (!!) the Sixth Symphony. In lesser hands, this music can become an exercise in near-aimless wandering. Here, though, it’s a study in existential despair. Throughout the movement, Shostakovich intentionally leaves individual elements and sections hyper-exposed, creating an air of fragility and vulnerability—two qualities you don’t often associate with a full orchestra. Kudos to the Liverpool musicians for leaping over all the booby traps the composer has set for them with such aplomb.

By the second movement, we find Shostakovich back in near-trademark form, ferociously colorful and sharply witty.

Similarly, the Sixth Symphony’s concluding Presto snaps along with tons of snarling percussion… Read complete review

Blair Sanderson, November 2011

Shostakovich’s music in both symphonies is powerful and profoundly moving, and the depth of the composer’s personality comes through, with or without narrative elements. Under Petrenko’s leadership, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is convincing in the performances, which convey the pathos and excitement that mark the Sixth, and the intense Russian fervor and heroism of the Twelfth. Naxos offers clear sound with a wide audio range, though the extremes can be heard comfortably with minimal adjustment of the volume.

Bob Neill
Positive Feedback Online, November 2011

Annual Writers’ Choice Awards - Best Classical Recordings

SHOSTAKOVICH, D.: Symphonies, Vol. 5 - Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3 (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra, Petrenko) 8.572396
SHOSTAKOVICH, D.: Symphonies, Vol. 6 - Symphonies Nos. 6 and 12 (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Petrenko) 8.572658

Volumes 5 and 6 of an ongoing series of the composer’s symphonies that is likely to be the definitive one when complete. © 2011 Positive Feedback Online

Bob Neill
Positive Feedback Online, November 2011

The sound is impressive, bringing out out both detail and weight. Fare forward, Vasily. © 2011 Positive Feedback Online Read complete review

John Quinn
MusicWeb International, October 2011

What are we to make of Shostakovich’s Sixth Symphony and, in particular, its unusual structure? It consists of three movements. The first is a substantial Largo, which dominates the work.

Many passages in the Largo are cruelly exposed and will mercilessly betray any frailties of tuning, intonation or balance. The music is also a stern test of the powers of concentration of both conductor and players. Happily, if unsurprisingly, Petrenko and the RLPO surmount all its challenges. In particular I admire the way Petrenko sustains the tension…the playing of the flautists in this episode is but one example of the fine solo playing from the RLPO’s principals; another is the doleful cor anglais solo that comes earlier (7:23-8:15). Interrupted by a few climaxes, the overriding impression left by the music is one of glacial arctic wastes and vast open spaces. It’s a profound but very enigmatic movement and in this compelling performance the listener’s attention is held, which is no small feat given the often spare, even forbidding textures and thematic material.

The following Allegro scampers along for much of the time and there are frequent examples of Shostakovich’s sardonic side. The scoring is infinitely more colourful. The performance has tremendous spirit, not least on account of the players’ excellent articulation. The RLPO displays agility and precision throughout the movement. I love the insouciant manner in which the music is delivered in the last couple of minutes, and not least the delicious pay-off at the end. There follows another quick movement, this time marked Presto. On the surface at least this movement seems to be something of a merry dance…and the music seems a world away from the mood of the opening Largo. The deftness of the RLPO is admirable and the performance certainly rounds off in great style what is a very fine reading of the entire work.

I find it hard to discern many redeeming features in the Twelfth…Petrenko and the RLPO do their very best for the work and their commitment never wavers; nor does the excellence of the playing falter. Others may find this a less empty work than I do in which case they will find that this performance delivers full value.

Happily, as Naxos discs are relatively inexpensive one can still invest for the sake of the performance of the Sixth Symphony, which is what I recommend that readers do. I shall certainly return to Petrenko’s fine version of that symphony but I doubt I shall often listen again to the egregious Twelfth.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2011

With this sixth volume of Shostakovich’s symphonies, the cycle is fast becoming one of the most important and impressive placed on disc. In Vasily Petrenko we have a firebrand that follows in the footsteps of Evgeny Mravinsky, tempos driven forward, the opening movement of the Twelfth, picturing Revolutionary Petrograd  never on disc sounding quite so manic. Maybe the Liverpool orchestra is not the Leningrad Philharmonic, nor would they have enjoyed the countless preparatory rehearsals the Russian orchestra enjoyed. Yet that in many ways gives the impression of players taken to the brink yet technically well equipped to go there. Change the dynamic to the other extreme and you have a quiet quality that few orchestras can match, so that we have a second movement pervaded with an uneasy feeling of desolation. The following movement depicts the shelling of the Winter Palace by the battleship, Aurora, before the final Dawn of Humanity, where Shostakovich opens with a breath of fresh musical air. Of course there are those who read hidden messages in the music, and they can take the work’s final moments as hope for a great future, or as music of a militaristic Soviet Union that now rules everyone’s life. In Petrenko’s hands it seems the second alternative might well be true. The Sixth is the ‘difficult’ symphony to capture and few conductors have succeeded on disc. Sustaining the long slow opening movement is the problem, but Petrenko’s wide dynamic range is ideal. Then if you play the second movement scherzo too fast, what do you do with the finale? Petrenko’s response is to look towards detail in place of the usual mad dash to the finishing post. Throughout the disc the woodwind departments are, by any international standard, outstanding, and the brass always exciting. The sound engineering is very good.

Brian Wilson Download Roundup
MusicWeb International, October 2011

[‘I shall certainly return to Petrenko’s fine version of [the Sixth] symphony but I doubt I shall often listen again to the egregious Twelfth’. See review by John Quinn here.]

The latest volume, No.6 in the series, maintains the high standards of its predecessors in terms of direction, performance and recording. Whether you go for this version of No.6 or a rival with a different coupling, such as Jurowski, with No.1…will depend on your attitude to No.12. No doubt it’s the weakest link in the series; though I still have a soft spot for it, JQ’s epithet ‘egregious’ is just right, yet it reminds me how far the English meaning has come from the Latin original—in the degree ceremony at Oxford, the proctors are addressed as egregii proctores. I doubt that they would be happy for the word to be understood in its modern sense. Petrenko is on record as regarding the Twelfth as a favourite work, though misunderstood in the West; he certainly makes a very strong case for it here.

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