We gave it a B-
Written as a public apology to Stalin for his adventurous opera, The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District, Shostakovich inscribed the 1937 score of his Fifth Symphony, ”A Soviet artist’s practical, creative response to just criticism.” Still, Shostakovich’s appareet memoir, Testimony-dictated to Solomon Volkov and made into a memorable 1987 film by British director Tony Palmer-demonstrates that the Leningrader was too much the pure musician to let ideology compromise the force of his message. The Fifth is a big, rich, sprawling work, deservedly popular in both the East and the West. Less well known is the Ninth, a slender, ironic piece that is first cousin to Prokofiev’s ”Classical” Symphony. Levi and his orchestra give the Fifth an appropriately grandiose reading, but they are up against some pretty stiff recorded competition from Rostropovich, Bernstein, and many others. On the less well trod turf of the Ninth, though, the Atlantans are slick and convincing, with some striking solo work from Laura Ardan, the first clarinet.