As a teenager, I once bought a recording of Shostakovich’s Twelfth. I played it once and, mystified, put it back on the shelf and hadn’t heard it again until this CD turned up! I’m still mystified but, as I always opine with Shostakovich symphonic cycles, you have to take the good with the bad – and the Twelfth is pretty bad.
Not even Petrenko, who is developing into one of our best Shostakovich conductors, can do much with this turkey, but he does manage to invest the Adagio with a generalised eeriness.
The Sixth is another matter: unduly neglected, it’s arguably Shostakovich’s most inscrutable and abstract symphony, whose lopsided construction does interpreters no favours, since the second and third movements combined are barely half the length of the preceding Largo and, as a skittish Scherzo and jokey presto respectively, are uncomfortably similar.
Petrenko manages to distinguish them effectively and also achieves a haunting effect in the hugely spanned opening movement. It also sounds genuinely Russian: the “moodiness” of the strings with their undercurrent of sinister power and the piquant woodwind in the latter movements (something Haitink never managed in his recording with the LPO). The four stars are for the playing.