Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Vasily Petrenko
Shostakovich: Symphonies, Vol. 1 - Symphony No. 11, "The Year 1905"
Wholenote Discoveries - April 2009
This is remarkably fine performance, superbly recorded. The first performance one hears is often imprinted as the way to perform a certain work. I first heard the Shostakovich 11th symphony on an EMI recording by André Cluytens and the ORTF orchestra. Made in the presence of the composer on May 15, 1958, it is, by definition, unerringly faithful to Shostakovich’s wishes and is my ideal (available in stereo on Testament SBT1099). 1958 was a good year for the work as Stokowski made his celebrated recording for Capitol in Houston exactly 51 years ago this month and another Russian performance under Stokowski from 1958 was issued. Since then there have been a score or more versions that have been listened to and filed away. Titled “The Year 1905”, this symphony depicts the events of Bloody Sunday when more than 200 peaceful demonstrators were massacred by Czarist soldiers outside the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. From the very opening bars, Petrenko perfectly shapes and balances the composer’s mood picture of the inanition of the multitude leading to the second movement during which the pregnant stillness is devastatingly broken by the deadly attack. All is quiet again and pain and sorrow lead to bitter resolution, presaging the revolution to follow 12 years later. Petrenko does far more than get it right. From manifest compassion to total brutality, he conducts from the inside, exposing the composer’s sources of inspiration, his Muse. The state-of-the-art recording is the best yet, making this CD a must-have for audiophiles and the composer’s following. This is the first instalment of Naxos’s announced complete cycle with Petrenko and his orchestra, presaging an exciting project. Bruce Surtees