Shostakovich’s atmospheric Eleventh Symphony recounts the events surrounding the First Russian Revolution of 1905, while reflecting on the brutality of the later Soviet regime. Its cinematic depiction of winter cold and military might is utterly compelling, and never more so than under the baton of the composer’s friend Mstislav Rostropovich.
Shostakovich wrote his Eighth Symphony (from a total of fifteen) in the summer of 1943, across a period of around ten weeks. It was given its first performance on 4 November that year by the USSR Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Evgeny Mravinsky, to whom the work is dedicated. Expectations were high, for Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, associated with the siege of Leningrad, had been adopted both in Russia and the West as a symbol of resistance to the Nazis. It was hoped that the Eighth would follow in its patriotic footsteps – earlier that year the German Sixth army had been annihilated at Stalingrad, the siege of Leningrad has been lifted, and the Nazis were in retreat.
In the record "Big Heart, Live in Tokyo" a new Lizard breed was in the mist of formation, less noir, more accessible but by no means "commercial.." In "No Pain for Cakes" the Lizards are out and anew, teeming with beautiful and boisterus sounds; some tunes are even quite sensual check out The Magic of Palermo and No Pain for Cakes. No space for muddy tunes, no time for boredom. "No Pain for Cakes" and "Voice of Chunk" represent the Lounge Lizards climax…for now!! The great guys are all there: Evan, Erik, E.J., Marc, Curtis, Dougie, Roy and John. It seems that instinctive forces worked among this line-up so the could effortlessly create this inspired and powerful music. I will end my review with this: I have two vinyl copies of this record…one is kept closed as a sacred jewel!! Unsatisfied, I bought a CD to play and abuse on a daily basis. I will not say more…
In October 2016, to bring his acclaimed Mendelssohn symphonies cycle to a rousing conclusion, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the London Symphony Orchestra – accompanied by Lucy Crowe, Jurgita Adamonytė, Michael Spyres and the Monteverdi Choir – gave two performances of the composer’s symphony-cantata, ‘Lobgesang’. Also known as ‘Hymn of Praise’, it sits slightly uneasily with Mendelssohn’s four other symphonies, with its extended last movement involving soloists and chorus. However, the idea was not without precedent – the work has its roots in both Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (‘Choral’), and Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette.
Both these couplings are extremely fine, but taken together they add up to even more than the sum of their parts. The point of coupling Shostakovich’s first and last string quartets is obvious, and the contrast between what the composer himself called his “Springtime Quartet” and the unprecedented sequence of six slow movements written months before his death could not be more poignant.