Shostakovich: Symphony No. 11 (The Year 1905)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Revelation
WORKS: Symphony No. 11 (The Year 1905)
PERFORMER: Leningrad PO/Evgeny Mravinsky
Although based on the tragic events of troops firing on a peaceful demonstration at the gates of the Tsar’s Winter Palace in St Petersburg in 1905, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 has a far more universal meaning. Mravinsky (who premiered no fewer than five Shostakovich symphonies and was the dedicatee of No. 8) recorded it in 1959, two years after it appeared, and, with eerie strings and sinister brass, he instantly establishes an air of oppressive calm pervading Palace Square before the massacre. The incident itself occurs in the second movement, where the people (folksong) are mown down by the troops (military material from the first movement) in a frenzied climax followed by more eerie sounds from strings and celesta. The legendary Mravinsky’s association with the Leningrad Philharmonic is illustrated to no better effect than at this point in the symphony, where raw emotion is never at the expense of disciplined control. Some shrill or sharp piccolo playing and the dry studio sound are an acceptable price to pay for such a thrilling account. Christopher Fifield