The Russian National Orchestra continues its Shostakovich cycle with Symphony No. 13, Babi Yar, together with bass Oleg Tsibulko, the Popov Academy of Choral Arts Choir, the Kozhevnikov choir and maestro Kirill Karabits. Inspired by Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem Babi Yar about a Nazi massacre of Jews just outside Kiev in 1941, Shostakovich based the Symphony on five of the author’s poems. The texts reflect on the peculiarities of daily existence in Stalinist Russia, providing a deep insight into life under Soviet reign. After the sombre, impressive opening movement, Shostakovich alternates between a satirical stance, humour, and portraying the hardships of the Stalinist reality, leading up to the innocent beauty of the symphony’s finale. One special aspect of this recording is the Russian National Orchestra’s collaboration with an Ukrainian bass soloist and conductor, underlining the shared cultural and political heritage of both countries. The Russian National Orchestra is among the most important orchestras in the world and has a vast, multi-award-winning PENTATONE discography. Kirill Karabits features on Tchaikovsky Treasures (2019) with Guy Braunstein and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Oleg Tsibulko, the Popov Academy of Choral Arts Choir and the Kozhevnikov choir all make their PENTATONE debut.
BBC Music Magazine September 2020
“This beautifully engineered studio recording under Kirill Karabits has all the necessary adrenaline to keep the listener fully engaged. Karabits is particularly effective in negotiating the tricky changes of tempo in the opening ‘Babi Ya’ movement and ensures that the tension is sustained right to the very end. – 4 out of 5 stars (Performance) / 5 out of 5 stars (Recording)
Fanfare Nov/Dec 2020
“Karabits conducts incisively, with the accent on drama…Tsibulko’s singing is first-rate, as is the orchestra’s playing, especially from the brass, who are encouraged to snarl. The powerful male choruses of native Russian speakers surpass any Western chorus for clarity and diction, not to mention authenticity. Pentatone’s recorded sound is beautifully transparent and lifelike.
“The orchestral playing astounds at every turn, the choral singing beyond reproach. Even more important, the narrative thread, apt to stretch and sometimes break, is preserved, Karabits in full control to the very end.
Presto Music 17th July 2020
“Notwithstanding the Ukrainian on the podium, this performance strikes me as a particularly Russian-spirited one. The emotional commitment from all concerned is palpable; Yevtushenko’s dissenting texts need to be heard as much now as they did in the 1960s, and Tsibulko and Karabits are more than capable of imbuing them with weight and urgency. – David Smith
Sunday Times 26th July 2020
“It’s a huge, brooding piece, with flashes of dark humour in the scherzo, and a wistful skewering of Soviet careerists in the finale, superbly sung and played.
The Times 31st July 2020
“The performance has the authenticity and depth expected from the Kiev-born conductor Kirill Karabits, Oleg Tsibulko (bass), the Russian National Orchestra and two Russian choirs…Karabits controls this grim feast masterfully well. – 4 out of 5 stars