Following their highly acclaimed cycle of the complete Sibelius symphonies, Decca Classics is thrilled to announce the release of Shostakovich Symphonies 4, 5, & 6 with Klaus Mäkelä and the Oslo Philharmonic on 14 August 2024.

To celebrate the release, the Oslo Philharmonic and Klaus Mäkelä launch their 5th season with a special concert featuring Symphony No. 5, a work that has been central to Mäkelä and the orchestra’s repertoire since they first performed it in November 2019, before he began as Chief Conductor.

The Oslo Philharmonic then take Shostakovich’s Fifth to the Salzburg Festival on 21 August, marking Klaus Mäkela’s Salzburg debut and the orchestra’s first return to the festival since its historic concert with Mariss Jansons in 2000. They also perform Shostkakovich’s Fifth at the Musikfest Berlin on 1 September.

These performances are Klaus Mäkelä’s first Shostakovich on record and he was determined that Symphonies Nos, 4, 5 and 6 should appear together. Composed during the 1930s, these three works reflect a deeply traumatic period for the composer. For Mäkelä, the Fourth Symphony is the composer’s ultimate masterpiece. ‘The gestures are so incredibly modern – it sounds as if it was written yesterday. It is a very problematic work not only because it received its premiere much, much later, but it’s so unusual, even for Shostakovich. In a way it contains everything –  the core of all his expression. And it’s shocking in terms of its structure and harmonic language which can be extremely brutal at times.’ The Fifth Symphony, probably the composer’s most-popular work, in Mäkelä’s words, ‘is almost the perfect piece in terms of expression and structure. What makes it so great is that it has so many layers of expression which can be interpreted in such different ways.’ The Sixth Symphony, composed in 1939, after the immediate danger to Shostakovich’s life has passed following Stalin’s denunciation of the opera, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, is a work close the conductor’s heart. ‘The Sixth is one of my favourites because it is such a deeply personal work with an unusually imperfect form. The intense first movement Largo is followed by two short dances of grotesque joy and parody, giving a depth to the work which is both intensely dramatic and intimate.’

The set also shows off the Oslo Philharmonic’s fine pedigree in the music of Shostakovich, one it learned with a former Chief Conductor (1979-2002), Mariss Jansons. Jansons studied with Yevgeny Mravinsky, the Principal Conductor of the Leningrad (now St Petersburg) Philharmonic, the man who premiered no fewer than five of Shostakovich’s symphonies. He also worked with another conductor close to the composer, Kurt Sanderling.

The Oslo Philharmonic and Mäkelä’s performance of Shostakovich’s Fifth at the 2023 Edinburgh Festival garnered widespread critical acclaim: “Mäkelä squeezed out every drop of energy at key moments… he struck the ambiguous balance with thrilling perfection.” (★★★★★ – Bachtrack). “Whatever they are giving to those string players in Oslo, they should try and make it more widely available, because orchestras all over the world would kill for a string sound like the Oslo Philharmonic managed in this performance … It was both the foundation stone and the life-blood of perhaps the finest performance of this piece I have heard” (Seen and Heard International). In this terrific performance, low woodwind, principal horn, trumpet, and percussion were outstanding… the first Leningrad audience is said to have wept at the slow movement. You can see why” (The Observer).

In addition to touring with the Oslo Philharmonic this summer, Klaus Mäkelä also performs with the Orchestre de Paris at the BBC Proms, in a programme of works by Berlioz, Debussy and Stravinsky. 

Link to Decca Classics