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Shostakovich: Symphony No. 11- The Year 1905

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Product Description

Charismatic young conductor
Vasily Petrenko launches his
Shostakovich Symphonies series
with the Eleventh , a highly
charged depiction of the 'Bloody
Sunday' massacre of over two
hundred peaceful demonstrators
by Czarist soldiers outside the
Winter Palace in St Petersburg
in 1905. Scored for a sizeable
orchestra of triple woodwind,
four horns, three each of
trumpets and trombones, tuba,
timpani, percussion, celesta,
harps and strings, the Symphony
makes extensive use of
revolutionary songs as thematic
elements, as it progresses,
without pause, from the glacial
opening movement, Palace
Square, to the terrifying
massacre and its aftermath, The
Ninth of January, the funereal
third movement, Eternal
Memory, and the final movement,
The Tocsin, which culminates
with cataclysmic bell strokes.


Written to commemorate the abortive 1905 revolution Shostakovich's 11th Symphony, like the 12th which commemorates the 1917 revolution, lacks the weight or distinction of musical thought and logic which so characterizes the 10th and 13th Symphonies. What we forget, I think, is that the composer is writing in a popular idiom so as to reach as many people as he can. There is nothing wrong in being popular - for too long this has been seen as weak work and not a desire to communicate. As he was writing with regard to important events in Russian history I can well imagine that Shostakovich wanted to reach as many members of the public as he could with his music.

But make no mistake - the 11th Symphony is in no way an easy listen; you can't sit back and bask in the colourful orchestration and good tunes. Playing for nearly an hour, in four big movements, which run together and share material, some of them revolutionary songs, there is something cinematic about the way the piece is constructed - but this is because of the way Shostakovich cuts between ideas and creates quite vivid visual images; indeed there is one section in the second movement (at 10:58) which always reminds me, for reasons I cannot explain, of the Odessa Steps sequence from Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin - perhaps Naxos could be persuaded to record Edmund Meisel's fine score for this film, for it warrants further hearings.

The first movement - Palace Square - is the calm before the storm. All is quiet, the music is restrained and delicate, soft string chords, quite beautiful in themselves, are interrupted by menacing fanfares from muted trumpets. There's a disturbed climax but the peace continues as if the insistent brass calls didn't exist. Fury is unleashed in The Ninth of January, the date (old style, Julian calendar) is significant for on that Sunday, subsequently known as Bloody Sunday, the Orthodox Priest George Gapon led a workers' procession to the Winter Palace (the square of the first movement) to deliver a petition to Tsar Nicholas II. However, the troops guarding the Winter Palace opened fire on the crowd, causing over 100 deaths. This is considered to be the start of the revolution. Shostakovich depicts the slaughter with music of vehemence, interspersed with reminiscences of the music of the first movement but transformed into icy sounds, long gone are the reassuring string sonorities. Hence my feelings about the Odessa Steps sequence. This is thrilling music and its forward momentum is irresistible. The third movement - Eternal Memory - is an elegy for the dead, deeply felt and with a passionate and yearning climax. The final movement, for it doesn't feel like a finale in the conventional sense - The Tocsin (which is a signal or alarm sounded on a bell) - is a wild march, grotesque and misformed, the workers rising, I presume. A slower section towards the end sings of grief before the final onslaught of bells and workers songs. It's a very fine piece.

And this is a very fine performance. With the Liverpool Phil on top form, responding to every one of Petrenko's demands, it is a resounding success. It is electrifying in the way that a concert performance is - indeed, it's hard to believe that this was recorded over two days, so immediate is the impact of the playing. The recording has an astonishingly huge wide dynamic range, the opening chords are so quiet that are, when played at a normal volume setting, almost inaudible. Turn the colume control up and the recording is as clear and bright as one could wish for. Every department of the orchestra is exceptionally well balanced, not an easy job in some of the fuller parts - and there are some very full tuttis - and, best of all, at the very end where the bells describe major and minor thirds in G the clangour is left to reverberate after the music has ended - absolutely thrilling. Whatever you do don't be without Stokowski's quite magnificent 1958 recording with the Houston Symphony Orchestra (EMI 6520622) and don't be without this new release - I couldn't be without either! This is an essential disk for all collections. -- MusicWeb International, Bob Briggs, May 2009

Billed as the start of a new complete Shostakovich symphony cycle, this initial entry holds a great deal of promise. The Eleventh Symphony has more the character of a film score than a traditional symphonic work: it thrives on atmosphere, color, and the repetition of simple tunes and motives rather than drama created by development and tonal contrast. Conductor Vasily Petrenko certainly understands this, whether in capturing the ghostly string timbres of the opening (reinforced by celesta on its many subsequent returns), in the crushing massacre sequence in the second movement, or in the splashy ending, with cymbals, bells, and tam-tam making cinematic contributions.

Petrenko's also very sensible in his handling of tempo. The first and third movements don't drag; the second and fourth have plenty of excitement with rhythms that never turn mechanical (as they have a tendency to do, what with so much militaristic march music). The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic plays very well, with distinguished contributions from all departments. My only quibble concerns the slightly backward positioning and lack of clarity afforded the timpanist, who carries much of the thematic substance of the first movement and presides over the massacre's percussion fusillades. Otherwise, this is pretty terrific on all counts. I recommend it accordingly, and look forward to the continuation of the cycle -- ClassicsToday.com, David Hurwitz, April 2009

The good news is this recording of Shostakovich's Eleventh Symphony is in the same class as the best ever made. The even better news is it's the start of a projected series of recordings of all the Soviet master's symphonies. Vasily Petrenko has demonstrated before this disc that he is among the most talented of young Russian conductors with superb recordings of Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony and of selected ballet suites. But neither of those recordings can compare with this Eleventh. Paired as before with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Petrenko turns in a full-scale riot of a performance that is yet tightly controlled and cogently argued. Said to depict the failed revolution of 1905, Shostakovich's Eleventh is not often treated with the respect it deserves, except, of course, by Yevgeny Mravinsky, the greatest of Shostakovich conductors whose two accounts have been deemed the most searing on record. Until now: Petrenko respects the composer's score and his intentions by unleashing a performance of staggering immediacy and violence, a virtuoso performance of immense drama, enormous tragedy, and overwhelming power. Recorded in extraordinarily vivid digital sound, this disc deserves to be heard by anyone who admires Shostakovich's music. -- Allmusic.com, James Leonard, April 2009

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Song Title Time Price
  1. Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Op. 103, "The Year 1905": I. The Palace Square -13:43Album Only
  2. Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Op. 103, "The Year 1905": II. The 9th of January -18:17Album Only
  3. Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Op. 103, "The Year 1905": III. In Memoriam -11:10Album Only
  4. Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Op. 103, "The Year 1905": IV. The Tocsin14:23Album Only

Product Details

  • Orchestra: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Vasily Petrenko
  • Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich
  • Audio CD (March 31, 2009)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B001QUL73W
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,524 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I've already enjoyed Petrenko leading the RLPO (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra) in Tchaikovsky's huge symphony-tone poem, Manfred. I also noted that not everybody got as much out of hearing that disc as I did, with some distinctively negative review notes sounded in passing. I also enjoyed the way that Petrenko worked with pianist Eldar Nebolsin on their Liszt concertos disc, though yet again some reviewers found either the players (or Liszt's music) wanting.

So here we go again. Bottom line is, I think this disc is possibly the very best of the three discs from Naxos. I like the other two just fine, for slightly different reasons; but this Shostakovich Eleventh Symphony brings it all together, reaching new sonic and musical heights. I also think this particular reading can stand comparison with the best of the available catalog and come off very high, if not in some minds and hearts and ears, the highest so far. I cannot quite recall a similarly auspicious young conductor debut in Shostakovich, since the unhappily aborted Phllips Universal label debut of the young Semyon Bychkov.

Maybe we can attribute some of this success to the conductor settling in, quite nicely as a significant musical team, with the band? Petrenko has been working with RLPO, since at least 2006. From all indications on this new disc, the conductor and the band are hand in glove, at least from the sound of it. Add in the composer's high stakes in this musical proceeding; and we get one of those Russian Troika configurations, wild, powerful, pulling us fiercely across the shining snow and ice of hard winter.

In Shostakovich' opus, this symphony is all about hard Russian winter.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By I. Giles TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 10, 2013
Format: Audio CD
This very well recorded and dynamically wide-ranging disc from 2008 was Petrenko's Shostakovich calling card. It declared a number of things. Firstly it clearly declared that Liverpool had a new young conductor who had plenty to say about Shostakovich. Secondly it declared that an inspired Liverpool orchestra had the potential to take on the big name players. Thirdly it declared that Naxos were determined to give a no-holds-barred dynamic level to this series that would do Shostakovich justice and perhaps require understanding or absent neighbours to those who wished to play the disc at anything like a realistic volume level.

All of these things were exciting declarations and printed critical opinion from musical journals and newspapers were quick to lavish praise on the venture.

Several years later the series has developed and is now a major reference point for those interested in this composer. Petrenko is no shrinking violet and he has succeeded in creating a Russian drive and sound from his Liverpudlian orchestra that has remained constant throughout the series. Generally this is achieved by tempi that keep on the move, but not always. This symphony certainly has long passages of desolation that demand, and get, desolate playing where time seems to stand still. The symphony is very pictorial in its political message and Petrenko makes sure that the imaging is put over dramatically and strongly.

This performance is far more impactive than either Rostropovich or Haitink for example who fail to dig deep enough into the Russian psyche. Some of the best Russian recordings are unfortunately not of the highest 'fi' and that matters in such a large scale work as this.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Spartro1 on November 2, 2010
Format: Audio CD
Dmitri Shostakovich has long been one of my favorite composers, and his 4th-11th symphonies are some of my favorite works from the 20th century. The 11th, however, for me is right behind the 5th in terms of excellence. This is music of power yet gloom. The uneasy sounding first movement always sends a chill down my spine. I can very easily picture a cold Russian Dawn, with silent rifle barrels ready to fire if necessary. Even though Shostakovich attached a program to this work, I certainly feel like it could be "absolute" music. The last movement is absolutely terrifying, with its loud percussion and screaming brass. Maestro Petrenko coaxes some magnificent playing out of his orchestra, certainly on the level of the other mainstream British ensembles (London Symphony, Philharmonia) and probably some of the continental orchestras. I never felt for a moment that his music was banal, and Petrenko certainly got a lot of conviction from himself and his orchestra. Naxos's recorded sound is also very good, if not excellent. For those looking for a Shosty 11 on a budget, this is the disc.

Bravi tutti!
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Format: Audio CD
When it first appeared, this recording woke the world up to the gifts of Vasily Petrenko, now 34, a boyish Russian who has by now put the Royal Liverpool PO on the map. Now the Oslo Phil. has signed him up as music director, and everyone expects that one of the major orchestras will come calling sooner rather than later. In every respect Petrenko displays his charisma in this, the opening salvo of a complete Shostakovich symphony cycle, but more importantly he redeems some mighty claptrap in the process.

To me, the Shostakovich 11th, premiered in 1957, is a suspiciously mawkish tribute to the innocent citizens mowed down by the Czar's Cossacks in the bitter cold of January, 1905. The music is programmatic and as easy to follow as a Hollywood soundtrack -- we witness historical tableuax from the first public gathering at dawn in Palace Square, St. Petersburg to the massacre, a period of mourning, and then the wild ringing of the tocsin that sounds the promise of a victorious future, i.e., the October Revolution of 1917. It's always uncomfortable when Shostakovich does his duty as a loyal Soviet artist-- a "people's composer" -- and it helps only somewhat that he later told interviewers that this work, although supposedly a paean to revolutionary glory, was actually a covert criticism of Moscow's brutal suppression of the Hungarian uprising of 1956.

However it's sliced, the Shostakovich 11th is problematic musically, needing a great deal of help to get beyond its rum-tum depiction of patriotic blood and tears. Petrenko succeeds through a combination of incisiveness and serious intent. He doesn't cheapen the movie music, and he looks past the propaganda value of the score to the human sacrifice that lies beyond, for both the victims of 1905 and the composer.
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