ALBUM TITLE: Shostakovich Symphony No. 11
WORKS: Symphony No. 11
PERFORMER: Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Alexander Lazarev
CATALOGUE NO: CKD 247
A conductor can make great music out of Shostakovich’s Eleventh, that cinemascopic parade of revolutionary songs clustered around the Palace Square massacre of 1905, but only by applying the stamp of inspired creativity. Mstislav Rostropovich achieved it with the LSO (reviewed October 2002), and you only have to compare that performance with this latest in the frozen wastes of the opening. Rostropovich creates instant atmosphere and expectation at a much slower tempo than Shostakovich suggests; with Lazarev’s RSNO strings, it’s a question of notes, not mood – and no amount of extra SACD ambience is really going to change that. The surprisingly beautiful revolutionary anthem ‘You fell as a victim’ which overshadows the slow movement finds the LSO violas singing their melody with infinite care. In Lazarev’s hands it couldn’t be more matter of fact. As in the first movement, the difference of five minutes between performances works in Rostropovich’s favour.
Lazarev does create something radical out of the Adagio’s hammering climax, even more cataclysmic than the preceding massacre scene. And again in the finale we have another awesome demonstration of the RSNO’s brassy might at full pelt. The truthful Usher Hall sound justifies this wide-screen symphony as the best representative of Lazarev’s Shostakovich cycle. But ultimately his three-star performance can only make this appear a two-star symphony, rather than the five-star work Rostropovich makes of it. David Nice