Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Op. 103 ‘The Year 1905’
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
LPO LPO0118 57:63 mins
Given that No. 11 is one of Shostakovich’s less multi-dimensional symphonies, the range of interpretations it has yielded is surprising. Jurowski’s live performance is 14 minutes shorter overall than Rostropovich’s with the LSO back in 2002. This is the first time I’ve heard the opening given more as human chant than a depiction of frozen wastes on that January morning outside the Winter Palace in 1905. Jurowski seems to be making the point that this is a symphony of sorrowful songs, revolutionary and otherwise, until the musically re-imagined Palace Square massacre midway through the second movement, a precisely-articulated tornado. Everything moves inevitably towards that point, everything connects.
The cantabile essence returns in the slow movement’s homage to ‘You fell as victims’, if not quite as shrouded as it can be – muted violas perhaps sounding too up-front here – while the combat which throws up ‘Varshavianka’ in the finale is crisp and embattled. The performance certainly made me hear the Eleventh afresh; but I still clamour for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain’s live performance from the beginning of last year on disc, uniquely prefaced and punctuated as it was by the young musicians singing some of the original anthems.