Shostakovich Symphony No. 11 conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich

by | Jun 1, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 11 in G Minor “The Year 1905” –
London Symphony Orchestra/Mstislav Rostropovich – LSO Live multichannel
SACD LS00535, 72:24 ****:

The Eleventh was written in 1957 to mark the 40th Anniversary of the
First Russian Revolution. As with the Fifth, the Soviet authorities
found it a model of socialist realism in music, but in the West it was
felt to be just glorified film music and far too lengthy. As the
subtitle indicates, this is a musical depiction of the main events of
the first, unsuccessful, Russian revolution. In January of that year a
huge demonstration of workers and families collected in front of the
Czar’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.  They carried respectful
petitions to ask for corrections of the oppression and corruption of
the government, along with religious icons and portraits of the
Czar.  The Czar’s troops opened fire on the crowd and killed

Only the first two movements are programmatic in describing the Palace
Square, the petitioners, and the unprovoked attack by the soldiers –
represented by some of the composer’s most dissonant orchestral
outbursts. Many of the musical themes come from revolutionary songs and
songs of 19th century political prisoners. The Third movement is In
Memoriam and an adagio dirge for both the fallen in this event and for
all the victims of other massacres. The finale brings back some of the
song material and in keeping with part of its title “Tocsin,” it
features clanging bells of deifiance at the tumultuous conclusion.

The Eleventh is distinguished by a tremendously wide dynamic range.
Some of the scene-setting in the first two movements is so triple
pianissimo that unless volume is set to a rather high level it may fall
into near silence. The heavy compression of all classical radio
stations would turn this symphony inside out dynamically-speaking. It
provides a fine exhibition of the high-resolution abilities of DSD
recording at the low end of the dynamic range that may be even more
valued than in the big orchestral climaxes. There is a highly dramatic
(though edited-down) version of the symphony conducted by Stokowski,
but it is obviously compressed compared to this demo-quality
SACD.  Bravo to the LSO recording crew, which included James
Mallinson and Tony Faulkner.

– John Sunier

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