Symphony No. 11, Op. 103 ‘The Year 1905’
BBC Philharmonic/John Storgårds
Chandos CHSA 5278 66:45 mins
There’s one recording of this second-rank Shostakovich symphony we still really need: the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain’s searing January performance under Jaime Martin with the young radicals singing some of the revolutionary anthems the composer uses in the work around and between several of the movements. It was broadcast by BBC Radio 3, so a commercial recording could ensue. Not only did the emotion have a context, but the strings dug deeper and more excitingly into the attacks than their seniors do here. Nevertheless John Storgårds in Manchester gives an appropriately humanised interpretation, set on a wide sound stage that is one of Chandos’s natural best. The cinematic opening twitches with inner life, all dynamics duly observed, while the polyphony of stirring to action in the second movement is ideally clear.
As with the famous demonstration-quality Bournemouth/Berglund recording, the first to make an ideal bid for what’s best about this symphony, the lead-up to the massacre, brass sliding between notes with viscous horror, and the ensuing percussion-led tattoo is shattering. Then the violas singing the memorial song ‘Eternal Memory’ keep it ghostly and glassy, the more to offset the impassioned climax, never spilling over into fake sentiment. Marching melodies are suitably trenchant, Musorgskyan wind choruses, sometimes capped by vivid piccolo, create their own atmosphere and the tuning of the alarm bells at the very end of the Symphony is ideally clear. Impressive solos from muted trumpets and low-register cor anglais add sophistication.