Shostakovich / Symphony No. 5 – Kertesz

More of the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

More Imported Pressings on Decca and London

  • This stunning classical release makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this early London UK pressing
  • The sound of the orchestra is dramatically richer and sweeter than you will hear on most pressings — what else would you expect from Decca’s engineers and the Suisse Romande?
  • The sound here is glorious, full of all of the qualities that make listening to classical music in analog so involving

This vintage UK London pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for —this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1962
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.


Side One

1st Movement: Moderato
2nd Movement: Allegretto

Side Two

3rd Movement: Largo
4th Movement: Allegro Non Troppo

Wikipedia on Symphony No. 5

The Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47, by Dmitri Shostakovich is a work for orchestra composed between April and July 1937. Its first performance was on November 21, 1937, in Leningrad by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra under Yevgeny Mravinsky. The premiere was a huge success and received an ovation that lasted well over half an hour.

The symphony is approximately 45 minutes in length and has four movements:

I. Moderato – Allegro non troppo (D minor)

The symphony opens with a strenuous string figure in canon, initially leaping and falling in minor sixths then narrowing to minor thirds. Then, we hear a broadly lyric first theme played by the violins. The second theme is built out of octaves and sevenths. The two themes are expanded in the development section, by having different instruments playing them, and in different styles, including a march section. In the recapitulation, themes heard earlier on are brought back again either identically or somewhat varied. Near the end of the movement, the second subject is heard again in the form of a canon played by flute and horn, then the same material is played by the violin and piccolo. The movement ends with the celesta playing a rising figure, and slowly fading away.

II. Allegretto (A minor)

This movement is in ternary form.[2] The movement opens with a heavy, loud introduction in the basses, followed by a softer solo on the E♭ clarinet. There is also a theme played by the woodwinds that is repeated later. In the recapitulation, some of the material heard earlier is repeated piano and staccato, not loudly and sustained as at the start.

III. Largo (F♯ minor)

Shostakovich begins this movement with violins in three sections, rather than the more usual two. The opening theme is played by the third violins. Second and first violins are slowly added and continue the melody. After the assertive trumpets of the first movement and the raucous horns of the second, this movement uses no brass at all, so there is a limited palette of sounds. This section yields to a pair of flutes in widely-separated counterpoint, the second of which makes reference to the first subject of the first movement. The solo is then passed on to the oboe with string accompaniment. The third movement ends like the first, with a celesta solo that slowly fades away. The strings are divided throughout the entire movement (3 groups of violins, violas in 2, cellos in 2; basses in 2).

IV. Allegro non troppo (D minor – D major)

This movement, also in ternary form (ABA), differs greatly from its predecessors, mostly with regard to melodic structure and motives. Various themes from earlier in the work are expanded until we get to a new theme played on the trumpet. This new theme is passed on to the strings and eventually the piece becomes quieter. The central section is much quieter and more tranquil, and is ultimately replaced by a march, where the melodies from earlier are played like a funeral dirge, accompanied by timpani. The music builds as the new accompaniment passes from timpani to woodwinds and then to strings, finally reaching a point where the piece changes from a minor key into a major key.

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