Previn / LSO: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 13 (“Babi Yar”) (2LP, 180g, UK pressing)

# Composers: Dmitri Shostakovich
# Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
# Conductor: André Previn
# Vinyl (1980)
# Number of Discs: 2
# Format: FLAC
# DR Analysis: DR 16
# Label: Alto Records / EMI / His Master’s Voice | ASD 3911
# Size: 24-bit/192kHz (2.43GB), 24-bit/96kHz (1.22GB) and 16-bit/44.1kHz (324MB)
# Recovery: 5%
# Scan: yes
# Servers: File Factory


André Previn made scores of recordings of Russian music in the 1970s and 1980s for EMI, virtually all of them stellar recordings and performances at the very least. This Shostakovich recording is among the best. A good 13th has to have a genuine Russian timber from both the chorus, soloist, and orchestra. That which is why I have disliked most Western recordings of the 13th, especially the much lauded Haitink/Concertgebouw recording on Decca/London.

Previn achieves a result that has all the Russian flavor one could ask for, and still get the more polished playing available from a Western orchestra. The chorus especially sounds more Russian than Haitink’s. Petkov is among the better soloists too. This is without a doubt the best 13th performance by a non-Russian orchestra and chorus I’ve heard.

The most interesting aspect of this set to me, though, is the audio quality. Recorded in 1979 with analogue equipment, the sound is vivid, the soundstage very real, and the tonal qualities are excellent throughout. – Randy Lane,


The death of Josef Stalin on March 5, 1953, ushered in an era of freedom for Soviet artists. But, oddly enough, for nearly a decade following the dictator’s passing, Shostakovich, one of the chief targets of Soviet censors in the past, wrote nothing of a radical or adventurous nature. In 1962, however, he broke out of his conservative shell and composed his Symphony No. 13, whose expressive language is deeper and more uncompromising than any of his then-recent compositions. Only the unwieldy Symphony No. 4, whose belated premiere took place in 1961, 25 years after its completion, is as challenging and substantive.

Even before the Symphony No. 13’s premiere, Shostakovich was in trouble with the Khrushchev regime over it, though not, however, because of his music, but rather because of the texts he chose to set. The work uses five poems by Evgeny Yevtushenko, and it was the first of these in particular, “Babi Yar,” from which the symphony derives its subtitle, that created the controversy. It tells of oppression of the Jews in Russia, an injustice Soviets felt the need to deny.

Over the objections of government officials, the premiere of the symphony took place in December 1962. It was a success, but pressures mounted to suppress or modify the work and a second performance had to be canceled. Bowing at last to the wishes of authorities, Yevtushenko and Shostakovich allowed the texts to be attenuated. Another performance took place, with the textual changes, after which the work disappeared from Soviet concert halls for nearly three years.

The Symphony No. 13 is made up of five movements, each having a subtitle pertaining to a Yevtushenko poem: Adagio (“Babi Yar”), Allegretto (“Humor”), Adagio (“In the store”), Largo (“Fears”), and Allegretto (“A career”). The chorus sings in unison or octaves throughout, except for a passage near the end of the third movement. The orchestral forces are sizeable, but Shostakovich’s scoring tends to be sparing throughout, although there are outbursts of considerable power in several places.

The first movement is dark and dramatic, morbid and harsh. This bleak panel, with the bass soloist prominent throughout much of its duration, is an atmospheric and powerful setting of Yevtushenko’s texts. The second movement is a Scherzo, and its “Humor” is often tart and brash.

The last three movements are continuous. The text of “In the store” praises the ordinary working woman. Shostakovich’s music is subdued and dark throughout most of the movement, painting a bleak picture of life (which Soviet officials also could not have found much to their liking). The riveting climax in this section comes when the chorus sings (about women), “To shortchange them is shameful….” The austere and dark fourth movement deals with fears, as the chorus starts off whispering the word, effectively summoning a fearful atmosphere. The last movement, which offers text praising those with integrity in their careers, begins with an attractive, slightly sad waltz, although the mood throughout is brighter than in any previous panel. The ending is quiet, with the waltz turning gossamer, almost mystical.

In the last two decades of the twentieth century, this symphony gained considerable popularity both in the concert hall and on recordings. A typical performance of it lasts from about an hour to nearly 70 minutes. – Robert Cummings,

Track Listing:

Side One
01 – I. Babi Yar

Side Two
02 – II. Humour
03 – II. In the Store

Side Three
04 – IV. Fears
05 – V. A Career

Dimiter Petkov – bass

Recorded on 5th & 6th July 1979 at Kingsway Hall, London, England

Additional info can be found here.

Ripping Info:

All vinyl is cleaned on a VPI 16.5
Milty Pro Zerostat 3

Technics SL1200-MK5 (modified)
– Rega RB300 arm with RB700 wiring
– Michell Tecnoweight
– SoundSupports armboard
– Trans-Fi Audio ResoMat
Audio Technica AT33PTG/II
AVID Pellar preamp
RME Hammerfall 9632 ADC

Processing: Sound Forge 10, ClickRepair (manual mode only), iZotope RX3

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