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The beginers guide to
Dmitri Shostakovich's music on CD

(Note that recordnumbers may alter over time, the ones given here are the ones that is found on the editions I have, some selections are live recordings and/or historical, the sound quality may vary, some may be out of print as the market changes rapidly, in this list I only try to cover the most "obvious" works, if You miss something please send me an e-mail: - listening before purchase is always adviseble!)


Recomendations for each symphony:
  • 1: Ancerl on Supraphon [No: 11 1951-2, with S. 5]
  • 2: Kondrashin on BMG/Melodiya [No: 74321198442, with S. 14]
  • 3: Rostropovich on Teldec [No: 4509-90853-2, with S. 3]
  • 4: Kondrashin on BMG/Melodiya [No: 74321198402]
  • 5: Temirkanov on RCA [No: 09026-68548-2, with S. 9]
  • 6: Askenasy on Decca [No: 425 609-2, with S. 1]
  • 7: Ancerl on Supraphon [No: 11 1952-2]
  • 8: Mravinsky on BBC Legends [No: BBCL 4002-2, with Mozart S. 33 as bonus]
  • 9: Rozhdestvensky on Melodiya Twoofer [No: 74321-49611-2, with S.'s 1, 5, 6]
  • 10: Mravinsky (1955) on Praga [No: PR 250053]
  • 11: Askenasy on Decca [No: 448 179-2]
  • 12: Mravinsky on Praga [No: PR 254017]
  • 13: Kondrashin on Russian Disc [No: RD CD 11 191]
  • 14: Barshai on Russian Disc No: RDCD 11 192, with S. 9
  • 15: Jansons on EMI [No: CDC 5 56591-2 , with Piano Concerto No. 2 and Gadfly Suite]

  • A good disc to start with are Yuri Temirkanov conducting the St. Petersburg Philharmonic playing the "fifth" and "ninth" symphonies on RCA [No: 09026-68548-2], this is my chosen disc for symphony No. Five.

  • If You are keen to buy all the symphonies with one conductor, the obvious choise to me is to get the Box on BMG/Melodiya with Kirill Kondrashin [No: 74321199522], it has some flaws, but on the whole less of those than any curreently availble competitor.

    String Quartets/stråkkvartetter:

  • The most given recomendation is for to aquire the Borodin Quartets box of all the 15 quartets on BMG/Melodiya [No: 74321 40711-2], it aslo includes a magnificent rendition of the Piano Quintet with Sviatoslav Richter (recorded between 1977 and 1983) - the only down side would perhaps be the somewhat harse sound quality

  • There is also a 2 CD set on Virgin Classics [VBD 5-61630-2] with the Borodin Quartet, featuring Quartets Nos. 2, 3, 7 and 8 - these recording are of a latter date than the above (Late 1980'ies), all four have better sound quality, this is perhaps the perfect introduction to Shostakovich string quartets

  • A good choice among the new-commers to the String Quartets are the Swedish Yggdrasil Quartets newly begun Cycle on BIS [CD-913] with quartets 3, 7, and 8.

  • For the those who are very keen on getting the best, there is no alternative to searching out the Taneyev Quartets legendary releases of the complete quartets on Melodiya: SUCD 11-00308 (Nos. 1, 4, 5), SUCD 11-00309 (Nos. 3, 9), SUCD 11-00311 (Nos. 6, 7, 8), SUCD 11-00312 (Nos. 11, 12, 13), SUCD 11-00313 (Nos. 14, 15) - unfortunatly these have only been availible in Russia - It would be a miricle if someone could persuade BMG to relese these as Melodiya Twoofers. I have only heard these in their erlier LP version and they are the best.

    Other Chamber Music/Annan Kammarmusik

    The Piano Trios: A choice here would be for a CD with the both trios together, unfortunatly there is no such, mostly because the first trio is still somewhat overlooked, there is two selections with the two together that I can recomend: on Nimbus with the Vienna Piano Trio (with Schnittke: Piano Trio - No. NI 5572) or with the Stockholm Arts Trio on Naxos (with The Blok Romances, op. 127 - 8.553297)

    For the second trio alone (op. 67) I have three sugestions:

  • On Teldec, with the members of the Borodin Quartet and Elisabeth Leonskaja at the piano - this is the contemporary selection, exelent playing and sound (with the Piano Quintet op. 57 - No. 4509-98414-2)

  • On BBC Legends with Mistislav Rostropovich, Lenonid Kogan and Emil Gilels - a recoding from a BBC concert, wonderful playing, decent sound (with the Concerto for Cello op. 107 playd by Rostropovich and the Leningrad PO under Rozhdestvensky, also a smashing interpretation - No. BBCL 4024-2 )

  • With the unfortunate demise of the Label Russian Revelation, an obvious first choice was mad unavailible, The composer himself playing with D. Tsiganov (violin), S. Shirinsky (cello) of the Beethoven Quartet "Magical" playing with an historical sound quality (with Preludes for piano op. 34 (Nos. 8, 14-19, 22-24) and From Jewish Folk Poetry opus 79 - N. Dorliak (soprano), Z. Dolukhanova (mezzo-soprano), A. Maslennikov (tenor), D. Shostakovich (piano) - RV 70007) - I mention this because it may pop up on the second hand market or so.

    The Piano Quintet: To me there are three obvious choices:

  • With the composer at the piano and the Beethoven Quartet on Vanguard Classics, superb in every musical fiber. (with String Quartet No. 2 - No. OVC 8077)

  • with the Borodin Quartet and Sviatoslav Richter (from the BMG box mentioned above (No: 74321 40711-2, perhaps availible as a single disc?)

  • And with the Borodin Quartet with Elisabeth Leonskaja (mentioned above with Piano Trio No. 2 - No. 4509-98414-2)

    From Jewish Folk Poetry:

  • On Russian Disc with Dorliak, Dolukhanova, Maslennikov and the composer at the piano (probobly the same recoding as mentiond above with the second piano trio on Russian Revelation. This disc also includes asorted songs by Shaporin, Ippolitiv-Ivanov and Kabalevsky sung by Zara Dolukhanova - No. RD CD 15 015)


  • Piano: The most ideomatic on availible is the classic release with the composer himself at the piano. On Emi [CDC 7 54606-2] fives both the conceri, the three Fantastic dances op. 5 and five parts from the Preludes and Fuges op. 87.

  • Violin: Here there ar two choises, the grand master and the new master: By the grand master, David Oistrakh, the first concerto is availible on Sony [MHK 63327, with first cello concerto], the second on Russian disc [RD CD 11 025, same recording also availble on ICONE ICN-9408-2, with S. 15] with Kondrahin and the Moscow Philharmonic, both are invaluble documents. By the new master, Maxim Vengerov both concertos are availble on Teldec [4509-92256-2 and 0630-13150-2, resp. with the two concertos of Prokofiev] as single discs - if sound quality matters as much as interpretation than nothing even comes close to Vengerov.

  • Cello: Here the wind cry Rostropovich, his classic first, is avavilble as mentioned above with Oistrack No. 1 vioiln concerto Sony [MHK 63327], truly invaluble - Both the concertos are availible from the concertos premiers in Russia with Slava on EMI [5 72295-2, two Cd's with Cello sonatas by Shostakovich, Kabalevsky and Karen Khachaturian], a musical revelation.


  • The 24 preludes op. 34: I prefer Olli Mustonen on Decca [433 055-2, with Alkan 24 preludes]

  • The 24 preludes and fuges op. 87: There are several choices availible today, awaiting Tatiana Nikolaevnas historical 1962 recordings to surface on CD, her 1987 one on BMG/Melodiya [74321-19849-2] will have to do.

    Incidental music

    There is a lot of Ballet-, Stage- and film-music to choose from, this is a small selection: (none of it might perhaps be regarded as essential Shostakoviana, but most is quite entertaining music)

  • Riccardo Chailly has released three discs on Decca with various pieces that I recomend for starters; The Jazz Album [433 702-2] with the two Jazz suites, the first piano concerto and DDS hilarious arrangement of Vincent Youmans Tea for Two (Tahiti Trot): The Dance Album [452 597-2] with suites from the operetta "Moscow-Cheryomushki", the ballet "The Bolt" and the film "The Gadfly": The Film Album [460 792-2] with selected pices from the films "The Counterplan", "Alone", "The tale of the silly little mouse", "Hamlet", "The Great Citizen", "Sofia Perovskaya", "Pirogov" and "The Gadfly"

  • The German record company Capriccio has been releasing much of Shostakovich music in this category:
    [10 397] - Music to film and theater productions of Skakespeare "King Lear"
    [10 779] - Songs of the Forest / The Nose
    [10 562] - Music to the Film "Alone"
    [10 405] - Music to the Films "Zoya" and "The Fall of Berlin"
    [10 561] - Music to the Films "Golden Mountains", "The Youth of Maxim", "The Return of Maxim" and "The Vyborg District"
    [10 780] - The execution of Stephan Razin
    [10 777] - Shostakovich: Six Romances on Words by Japanese Poets opus 21 / Four Romances on Verses by Pushkin opus 46 / Suite on Verses by M. Buonarrotti opus 146A
    [10 778] - From Jewish Folk Poetry / Marina Tsvetaeva Poems
    The quality of these recordings vary from exelent to bothersome, all on the otherhand are valuble dokuments.

  • Chandos in England has released three full ballet scores with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra under Gennady Rozhdestvensky:
    The Limpid Stream [CHAN 9423]
    The Golden Age (complete) [CHAN 9251, 2-CD SET]
    The Bolt (complete) [CHAN 9343, 2-CD SET]
    All three are very fine


    The few availible records are all easily recomendable:
  • Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk, opera, Op 29 on EMI CLASSICS [EMD 49955-2]

  • Moskva Cheryomushki, Op.105 on Chandos [CHAN 9591, 2-CD SET]

    With: Residentie Orchestra The Hague and Russian State Symphonic Cappella under Gennady Rozhdestvensky with Russian soloists.

  • The Gamblers, CdM Russian Season: [RUS 788115]

  • The Nose, With the Boshoi opera under Rozhdestvensky on BMG/Melodiya Twoofer [74321-60319-2]


    Reading about a composer; about his/her music and the time with in which s/he lived and worked, can enhance Your enjoyment and understanding of the complex context history is. Like in recomendations of music I do not belive in definitive biographies or writings, a biography as such can not be anything but a compilation of material its writer or editor have found important at the moment of research. The following selections are a few titles that I have found valuble:

    On Shostakovich/Om Sjostakovitj

  • Wilson, Elisabeth - Shostakovich (A Life Remembered) Princeton University Press 1994
    The author paint us a picture of Shostakovich life from letters and interviews done with people who was more or less close to the composer. To me this is the most important Shostakovich book (as of today) as it contextualise much of the world around the composer. To me this is the best basic reading on the composer.

  • Volkov, Solomon (ed.) - Testimony (the memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich) Harper and Row 1979
    This much debated book, related to and edited by Solomon Volkov, tell us the story of a composer turned holy fool (Yurodivy) in his own words. It is told by an old and frail man, he sketch a picture of the circumstances under which He has lived that are so diffrent to what any westener have acustomed, that perhaps it is hard for the reader to accept it as a truth.

  • Ho, Allan B. and Feofanov, Dmitry (eds. and Wrts.: Shostakovich Reconsidered (Tocatta Press, UK 1998)
    This brick sice volume brings togther an american court style defence of "Testemony", with an abundance of evidence it sets out to corroborate Testemony as a correct memoir of the composer. To me as a Swede (not used to the US Juridical system), the chosen writing style is perhpas the pit fall of the volume, making it unduly difficult to read. This aside, it is an important volume.

    Soviet/Russian cutural and political history/Sovjetisk och Rysk historia

  • Volkov, Solomon: St. Petersburg; a Cultural History (The Free Press, New York 1995)
    A beautiful volume about the most important Russian city, gives many important clues to the interaction of cultural and political life in Russia during the 20'th century.

  • Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr: "The Gulag Archipelago: 1918 - 1956, An Experiment in Literary Investigation" (Several volumes)
    An expoé of the Soviet penetentional system, at part stomach turning reading. But an essential expeience to anyone interested in having a look behind the iron curtain.

  • Dubinski, Rostislav: Stormy Applause 1989
    A founding member of the Borodin Quartet, this is his autobiography, a parallel to "Testemony". A raging memoir about the musical life of a quartet under Stalinist and Soviet rule.

  • Orwell, George: "1984" and "Animal Farm" 1995Essential exposure of the Soviet society through satire. Should be on every bookshelf.

  • Shentalinsky, Vitaly: The KGB's Literary Archive: The Discovery of The Ultimate Fate of Russia's Suppressed Writers
    Tell the remarcable story of how the KGB collected every note of the writers they "exterminated" during the grater Stalinist times. This is a shaking parallel to what happened in film and music.