The Execution of Stepan Razin



I have lately spent a lot of time listening to classical music, with Dmitri Shostakovich (and others) on heavy rotation, especially his Symphony No. 13.

For this kind of music, a good performance is really crucial, and I really only got to appreciate the piece when I came across Mariss Jansons’ recording. As it turned out, at around the same time, Shostakovich wrote a very similar piece, a symphonic poem called The Execution of Stepan Razin, which he (supposedly - most things related to Shostakovich are apparently based on hearsay and outright fabrications) thought to be superior to the symphony.

I had never taken classical music as seriously as I do now - even though I used to listen to it before. Its other interesting facet is that the people who listen to it, for the most part have slightly (or heavily) obsessive personalities, which means that there are pages and pages of discussion which recording of which piece is best (given that I have been compiling a list of photographers for years now, my affinity for this will probably not be all that surprising), typically endless discussions, where people try to disguise their personal taste in jargon (hey, wait, doesn’t that sound somewhat familiar?). In any case, since recordings of the symphonic poem are amazingly rare - the piece is quite obscure - there isn’t any need to worry about which recording to get. The Naxos version is cheap and excellent, the Capricchio version is a slightly more expensive and equally good (oh boy, hardcore fans will now probably email me and ask me whether I’m insane, given that I’m ignoring Kondrashin’s version).