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Interesting and very russian recordings. Some of the symphonies are recorded at quite low volume so you have to adjust your player a bit but on the whole I like this set. The box they come in is very attractive and the packaging throughout is in the same style. The discs have one or more symphony on each one and I would have liked them to have gone in chronological order but there must be technical reasons why this was not done. However, I do like the set and would recommend it to those who like this composer's music.
As a long time lover of Shostakovich I was looking for a complete set and this one had three things in going for it. 1. None of the symphonies were split over two CD's (a particular pet hate of mine!) 2. Rostropvich was a friend of the composer and should know his works well. 3. It was ridiculously cheap! Overall this is a very good set, well recorded although in a couple of cases the recording level is a little low. Otherwise highly recommended
It would seem difficult if not even blasphemous to find any fault with a conductor who was a close personal friend of the composer of these symphonies. However, the field of choices for recordings of these symphonies is getting increasingly crowded with excellent choices. Interestingly, I find that Rostropovich's renditions of the 'lesser' or at least lesser known symphonies (e.g. 2, 3, 6, 12, 14) are the strongest and most convincing in the set. In the Twelfth, I finally felt that this piece belonged with the others - after previously feeling quite dubious of its quality. In the most familiar symphonies, I would look to other recordings to provide a greater thrill. That said, there are no real failures in this set - it just isn't consistently inspiring to me across the whole range.
This 12-disc set from 2007 brings together recordings made between 1973 and 1997 with at least three different orchestras for as many labels. The performances run a fairly steep gamut from a lackluster, yawn-inducing 8th (with the LSO from 1992 for TelDec/Erato), to the brilliant, stunning 14th, perhaps the greatest performance of a Shostakovich symphony every committed to disc--and, basically, the reason I bought the set.
Rostrapovich's classic--and still unequaled-- 1973 reading of the 14th with his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, bass Mark Reshitin, and the Academic Symphony Orchestra of Moscow originally appeared on the old Soviet Melodiya label, subsequently re-issued in the US on a CBS/Melodiya LP (M 34507 (1977)) and on CD first by Melodiya (SUCD 10-00241) in 1991 just before the breakup of the USSR, and later on the obscure Revelation label (RV 10101)--a poor transfer at best. I cannot complain about EMI/Warner's transfer; it is probably as good as it's possible to get, although still vexed by the original recording's odd acoustic quirks and sometimes-jarring spatial perspective, the tape hiss is mostly gone, and the performances are still as unforgettably passionate, fiery, driven, and utterly electrifying as when first committed to tape over forty years ago.
Other high points include what may be the best interpretation of the often-overlooked 12th Symphony from 1960--Rostrapovich's 1997 recording with the LSO goes a long way to convince me that this is more than a thematically-impoverished piece of note-spinning, but a work of genuine drama and substance. A very fine 6th, also with the LSO--and coupled with the 12th; a well-played and not-too over-the-top 5th; a superb 7th, an aptly quirky 1st, a well-paced (if a bit thin-textured) 9th, and a moving, heartfelt 13th with the National Symphony of Washington D.C., which gets one of the best performances on record, worthy to stand alongside truly great readings by Bernard Haitink (Decca), Eugene Ormandy (RCA), Neeme Jarvi (DG), and the 2014 Vasily Petrenko outing for Naxos
With the already-noted exception of the Melodiya 14th, the re-mastered sound in this set is fairly consistent from one disc to the next, notwithstanding the near-two-decade time span over which these recordings were made. Many of TelDec's original issues featured maddeningly low dynamic levels, which often necessitated a good deal of knob-twisting; but EMI's transfer engineers seem to have addressed this issue with some success.
Attractively priced and handsomely packaged, this set will make a welcome addition to any serious collection. Die-hard Shostakovich complete-ists will want it not only for the 14th, but as a document of a great musical association between the composer and one of his most ardent interpreters and dearest personal friends (akin in its way to the recordings of Mahler by Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer), but it has much to offer the classical-music beginner, and novice collector as well. Recommended!