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Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, March 2014

The horns, low brass, and percussion—the whole orchestra really—are thrillingly unbridled in the first scene [of The Execution of Stepan Razin]. The Slavic-toned chorus is lusty and uninhibited, fully engaged in its very theatrical role. The Chinese bass-baritone is the finest Razin since Gromadsky, driving the drama forward while giving full measure both to the reflective moments and public proclamations.

The charming Suite on Finnish Themes, settings of spirited folk songs on young love, is a bit of a jolt when it arrives, so different is the tone and scale. Written quickly on a government commission, it was assumedly designed to mark a Russian victory in the Winter War against Finland in 1939. There was no victory, as such, and the work was forgotten. It was found only recently and arduously reconstructed…It was performed in 2001…This second recording uses the same reconstruction, with its piano-dominated chamber ensemble and two soloists. Fine as the first recording is, this is finer yet, with generally breezier tempos, an even lighter touch, and, in soprano Mari Palo and tenor Tuomas Katajala, even more enchanting soloists.

The superb engineering of the disc is the final selling point for this release. I cannot imagine anyone with an interest in less-familiar Shostakovich passing it up. © 2014 Fanfare Read complete review




Stephen Estep
American Record Guide, January 2014

…I’m quite happy with this sumptuous, polished, and expressive performance. © 2014 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide



Robert Benson
ClassicalCDReview.com, January 2014

Complete texts are provided, and the stereo sound is excellent with impactful low frequencies. This new Ashkenazy set is a fine addition to the Shostakovich discography. © 2014 ClassicalCDReview.com Read complete review



International Record Review, December 2013

Ondine affords quite a close recording balance, which works in its favour especially well in the cantata. The orchestral sound offers plenty of weight, although bright percussion shines through. The informative booklet includes full texts, including transliterated Russia…this is an intriguing disc. © 2013 International Record Review



Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, November 2013

This is a very worthwhile disc; it has everything—a strong Stepan Razin, a rafter-rattling Zoya and a frothy little Finnish finale. I know Ashkenazy has already given us a big Shostakovich box, but I sincerely hope this isn’t the last we’ll hear of him and the Helsinki Phil.

Ashkenazy and this Finnish band make a terrific team; more, please. © 2013 MusicWeb International Read complete review



Barry Forshaw
Classical CD Choice, November 2013

Ondine’s disc of two intensely dramatic works by Shostakovich is highly accomplished. The Execution of Stepan Razin is a spine-chilling account of Razin’s bloody beheading and the Zoya Suite is an orchestral abridgement of the film score from 1944 depicting the 18-year old partisan Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya fighting against the Germans. These works are coupled with the relatively unknown Suite on Finnish Themes. Discovered nearly 40 years after Shostakovich’s death, the suite includes several arrangements of Finnish folk songs arranged for Soprano and Tenor soloists. The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Vladimir Ashkenazy revels in the drama and passion of the works. © 2013 Classical CD Choice



Robert Cummings
Classical Net, October 2013

This CD contains a wide variety of Shostakovich, from his dead-serious side (The Execution of Stenka Razin) to Shostakovich the composer of movie music (Zoya) and finally to Shostakovich the arranger (Suite on Finnish Themes).

The most substantial of the trio is The Execution of Stenka Razin…Ashkenazy’s account of it is excellent. What I noticed immediately here more than in any other interpretation was the sense of tension, of forward thrust. The music is alive, brimming with tension, not just in the lively opening sequences but in the slower music that follows.

The Seven numbers comprising the Suite on Finnish Themes are quite light in character and often folkish sounding…soprano Mari Palo delivers spirited versions of Nos 2 and 4, The Sky is Blue and White and The Girls of This Village. In the latter number and in #6, If I could be at Leisure, she is joined tenor Tuomas Katajala, who also sings splendidly. He turns in fine work as well in #5 The Strawberry is a Red Berry. Overall, this is an attractive work of rarely encountered Shostakovich arrangements that should appeal to the composer’s admirers. The sound on the disc is excellent and the notes are informative. © 2013 Classical Net Read complete review



Steven Bergman
EDGE Atlanta, October 2013

Ondine Records and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra continue their exclusive recording agreement with this powerful release featuring three works from one of Russia’s most recognized and respected composers, Dmitri Shostakovich.

…[in “The Execution of Stepan Razin”…The cantata’s theatricality is appealing…Bass-baritone Shenyang portrays both the narrator and the rebel, giving both characters the attitudes necessary to tell them apart, while presenting the Russian text. The State Choir “Latvija” sings the town’s track with enthusiasm.

The final piece is a song cycle based on Finnish folk themes. The short cycle…is sung delightfully by the young tandem of soprano Mari Palo and tenor Tuomas Katajala.

This recording is a poignant presenting by the orchestra, under the baton of the famed performer, Vladmir Ashenazy, of three lesser known works by Dmitri Shostakovich. © 2013 EDGE Atlanta Read complete review




David Hurwitz
ClassicsToday.com, September 2013

On the whole, these are excellent performances. Bass-baritone Shenyang is a very impressive soloist, comfortable with the language, and he delivers the text of Stepan Razin with a firm tone and total conviction. The choir sings with clarity and bite, and the orchestra plays powerfully… Soloists Mari Palo and Tuomas Katajala handle their roles in the Finnish Suite with warmth and easy style. The engineering is well-balanced and natural. This release is a valuable addition to the Shostakovich discography. © 2013 ClassicsToday.com Read complete review





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