This review focuses mostly on the 7th Symphony. About nine years ago, I acquired my first recording of this symphony, which got me into this work for the first time. Its effect kind of wore off after about a few years, though, as I grew more into Shostakovich's other works. But after hearing this performance by both my favorite conductor and favorite orchestra, I felt like I was hearing it for the first time. I'm listening to this recording as I type this review, feeling intrigued by what I hear.
Now, the 7th was extremely popular during World War II. But after the war ended, its popularity declined, as it was viewed simply as a propaganda piece. Some critics considered it among the "bad" Shostakovich symphonies. But I don't consider it anywhere near as "bad" as, let's say, the 2nd, 3rd, and 12th. To me, sympathy for the victims of the Nazi siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) does not necessarily equal an endorsement of the Soviet Union.
As for the performance itself, I'm told that Bernstein's is one of the longest out there. Whereas, most recordings of this symphony only need one CD to hold it, this one requires two CDs! But that doesn't detract from a quality performance. It's long, but never dragging. There are plenty of punches and details which have been brought out on this one which I didn't hear before. Maybe it was just the volume level of recording, but I don't know. Coupled with a very good performance of the 1st, this is a valuable addition to any classical music library.
(x-posted to classical_furs and furry_musicians)