Shostakovich

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Symphony No. 11 (The Year 1905)
PERFORMER: Royal Liverpool PO/Vasily Petrenko
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572082

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It’s a particularly bold move on Vasily Petrenko’s part to have inaugurated his projected complete Shostakovich symphony cycle with the 11th. The work remains one of the composer’s most problematic, requiring a particularly sure hand to steer listeners through material which in the wrong hands can sound long-winded and repetitive.

Fortunately Petrenko, inspired perhaps by Kondrashin’s legendary 1970s recording, keeps an extremely tight grip on proceedings, opting for flowing speeds in the first and third movements while carefully building up an exciting symphonic tension through the intense climactic passages that dominate the second and fourth.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic delivers an incisive and strongly committed performance with splendid and expressive solos from the flute, cor anglais and trumpet, and the recording, although lacking some depth in the loudest passages, is commendably vivid.

At the same time there are some details here and there that prevent me from giving an entirely unqualified recommendation to this version. In the opening movement Petrenko certainly captures the glacial stillness of Shostakovich’s writing, but doesn’t quite achieve the same sense of line, hushed expectancy and impending menace as on the recent version from Semyon Bychkov and the WDR Sinfonie-Orchester on Avie.

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Likewise, Bychkov achieves even greater urgency in the second movement and the bells in the closing section of the Finale toll more ominously in his performance than in Petrenko’s. Erik Levi