Label deal: Nelsons to record all 15 Shostakovich symphonies

Their opening Shostakovich release won a Grammy. Now DG has signed Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony to complete the cycle. Bold move: the outer symphonies – 1-3, 11-15 – never sell well.

press release:

The Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons, and Deutsche Grammophon have expanded their award-winning recording partnership by extending their original agreement, which focused primarily on Shostakovich Symphonies 5-10 (works composed during the period of Shostakovich’s difficult relationship with Stalin and the Soviet regime, mid-1930s to 1953), to include live recordings of the composer’s entire canon of 15 symphonies, plus the masterpiece opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.  The first album of the new partnership between the BSO, Nelsons, and DG, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10, released in July 2015, won the Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance at the 58th annual Grammy Awards in February 2016.

[CD art - Symphonies 5, 8, 9]In addition to the news about the contract extension, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Deutsche Grammophon announce the second installment in their series of live recordings of Shostakovich’s music under the direction of BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons, to be released worldwide on May 27, 2016. The second installment of Shostakovich Under Stalin’s Shadow, a two-disc set, will feature Symphonies 5, 8, and 9, as well as incidental music to Hamlet; these works were recorded live during the BSO’s 2015-16 season.

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  • Why not? The actual production cost is probably minuscule for DG, this being planned as live concert recordings.
    Remains only the unknown costs for royalties for musicians and music, which in today’s frosty climate DG might have been able to cut down or postpone into later profit sharing, instead of lump sums upfront.

  • Why? It’s not like the classical recording business is going gangbusters or the world is screaming for a complete set of Shostakovich symphonies. We already have excellent sets by Haitink, Ashkenazy, Petrenko, Jansons, Rostropovich and Barshai. So who do they figure wants this? Maybe if they could put all 15 symphonies on a couple of bluray audio and sell them at a bargain price…but otherwise, forget it. The only ones I listen to with any regularity were given stellar readings by Ormandy.

    • I’m glad there are people around who think the classical music recording industry is in good health. Myself, I have lost count of the number of highly distinguished musicians who are making few if any new recordings.

  • It’s kind of weird when NL refers to a conductor not by his first name. Always takes a moment to figure out.

  • For the reasons Cubs Fan (forget it, they won’t win the World Series this year, sorry) indicated, we hardly need this. I have the Jansons, Ashkenazy, and Petrenko sets, and at one point I had both the Rostropovich and Barshai sets, both of which I sold. I won’t buy this set unless reviews consistently indicate that it is far superior to anything previously done (even less likely than the Cubs winning the World Series this year) or they provide some unusual fillers. If this huge Shostakovich fan won’t bite, what is the market for this?

    • It will depend on whether Nelsons has something to say artistically. That is a big unknown at this point, and the Grammy win means nothing.

  • I don’t know what sales were like in GB, but Stokowski’s Capitol recording of Symphony 11 with Houston–or Hoosten as he pronounced it– (spread out on four lp sides) was a best seller when it was issued.

      • Wrong again, Milka (as in dilettante). Stokowski was clever, but no genius. Nelsons, for all his flailures, manages to get the most from any orchestra he conducts. In this case, the BSO has rarely sounded better.

    • When the Stokie recording came out it, was it the first recording of the 11th? What else was there? And genius or not, Stokie was well-known even to people who weren’t big classical fans. My parents never set foot in a concert hall yet knew who Stokowski, Toscanini, and Bernstein were thanks to the power of radio and TV. Personally, I can’t stand Stokowski’s recordings, his tampering with scores, and such. He was like the Donald Trump of the conducting world.

  • Yes I admit that the first, second, third, fouth, 13th, 14th Shostakovitch symphonies bore me as all the Bruckner symphonies before the 7th ! We are human and we have all our weakness !

    • That is unfortunate for you, because the First is lots of fun and the Fourteenth is one of the finest symphonies of the last 70 years.

  • I’m considering giving this set a try… just because it’s hard to find a recent recording of almost any Shostakovich symphony, let alone all of them, by an American orchestra. That said, I haven’t heard their 10th yet, so all I know is that it’s been generally well-reviewed.

  • True, though the Ormandy discs are very good. I think that the 15th is my favourite. I wish the Kondrashin set would appear at a reasonable price. It’s Shostakovich on original instruments!

  • When the BSO performs the 11th this September, it will be the very first time in the orchestras history that they have performed it. It’s scoring is tailor made for Symphony Hall and I can hardly wait to hear their Live performance.

  • Does anyone know when the 6+7 record is coming out? They claim on their website summer 2017, but that’s obviously past and they haven’t put out any new word on the matter…

  • I just heard the 10th and thought it was great, powerful like Karajan/BPO on DG but much better sound.Just bought 5/8/9 and 4/11, but can’t find 6/7– I would guess it has not been released yet.

  • I believe it is mentioned in the recently released 4 + 11 set, that 6 + 7 will be released sometime in 2019. I also read the delay has something to do with Nelsons previous recording of the 7th, which is with a European orchestra and another European label.

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