Here’s a more difficult comparison. Three versions of the dark, ominous Fifth Symphony by Shostakovich. The first is the most recent, with Valery Gergiev conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The second is a 1959 recording by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic and the third is a 1991 recording by Yevgeny Svetlanov and the USSR Orchestra.
Here you can compare the three openings. Listen to how the conductors set up this opening statement. Dramatic yes, but how? What makes one more dramatic than the other? The sound in these recordings is obviously different, but what about the sound of the orchestras? You could think of this opening phrase as a challenge, a cry. So what should answer that? How should the next phrase answer this first? To make that comparison, below these excerpts of the opening, there are YouTube videos of these three performances.
First listen to the excerpts and try to describe them in as much detail as you can. Then suggest what how you think the next phrase ought to answer the first. Then listen/watch the video performances of the movement and hear how they develop and differ.
NOTE: The National Symphony will be performing Shostakovich Symphony #5 May 11, 2013 in Carnegie Hall at the final concert of this year’s Spring For Music.
Valery Gergiev and the BBC SO
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Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic
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Yevgeny Svetlanov and the USSR State SO
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Gergiev – BBCSO
Svetlanov Moscow – USSR State Symphony Orchestra 1991
Bernstein – NYPhil 1959