One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount




AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Op. 103, “The Year 1905” (1957) [63:41]
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra/Mark Wigglesworth
rec. Music Centre for Dutch Radio and Television, Hilversum, The Netherlands, March 2006
BIS BIS-SACD-1583 [63:41]

Experience Classicsonline

Shostakovich’s Eleventh Symphony commemorates the abortive Russian popular revolution of 1905, and more particularly the massacre of more than a thousand peaceful demonstrators gathered in front of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg on 9 January of that year. Mark Wigglesworth, in his thoughtful and readable booklet note, informs us that Shostakovich’s father was present. Shostakovich studies are controversial and divided, and the appearance in 1979 of Testimony, purported to be the composer’s memoirs as related to Solomon Volkov, only fanned the flames of uncertainty. This is not the place to discuss this – and I don’t feel qualified to do so – but Wigglesworth reminds us that, according to Volkov, the uprising of 1905 was a frequent topic of family conversation when Shostakovich was a child. He seems to have been uncertain as to how to proceed when he received an official commission for a work commemorating the event. Did the uprising in Hungary against the policies of the Russian-imposed government provoke a reaction from him? There were certainly depressing parallels between the events in St Petersburg in 1905 and those in Budapest in 1956, and Shostakovich would surely have been profoundly moved by what happened. The work was rapturously received, and was later awarded a Lenin Prize, so the authorities were apparently untroubled by any hidden meaning. The composer’s son, Maxim, thought otherwise: “Father, what if they hang you for this?”
The symphony lasts for more than an hour, in four linked movements. The first, entitled “Palace Square”, depicts the uneasy calm of the crowd before the massacre, frozen to the bone; the second, the rising tension followed by the massacre itself. The third movement is entitled “In memoriam”, and is a poignant threnody for the dead, whilst the fourth, entitled “Alarm” in my score, but generally referred to as “The Tocsin”, celebrates the courage and steadfastness of those who died, as well as encouraging further resistance and struggle.
The work has been criticised for being little more than glorified film music. The use throughout of Russian revolutionary songs can be cited to support the accusation that it is musically lightweight, and there is no doubt that the events are depicted with startling clarity. Little happens, musically speaking, in the first movement – its sixteen minutes require only twenty-seven of the score’s 328 pages – but the deathly chill and sense of ominous foreboding are uncanny. Without it, or with a foreshortened movement, the drama of what follows would surely have been minimised. The violence in the second movement is searing and retains its power to shock even after many hearings, and the determination of the people – grim rather than jubilant – is brilliantly portrayed in the finale.
Let me say at once that this performance goes straight into the list of the very finest available. The orchestra is magnificent, and the recording is well up to the standards we have come to expect from Bis, though you will have to turn the volume well up in order to hear every detail in the quieter passages. The conductor’s booklet note is a distinct plus in my view, so much more worthwhile than any amount of pretentious musicological rubbish. And then there is his way with the work itself. He presents it with total conviction as a masterpiece of symphonic writing. There is a coherence and logic about the way the work unfolds here that not all conductors have been able to find. One consequence of this is that some passages are less immediately dramatic than in some other readings. The massacre itself, for example, stunning in this version, lacks the near-hysterical quality found in Rostropovich’s reading with the London Symphony Orchestra. This is no bad thing in my view, and in any case would only be evident in straight comparative listening. Heard on its own terms there is no lack of drama in Wigglesworth’s reading. Just listen to those screaming piccolos in this movement, to the wonderfully reedy bassoons throughout, to the stunning side-drum playing as the instrument launches the massacre, to the ferocious unanimity of the lower strings as the passage gets underway, and at just the right tempo. The slow trombone and tuba glissandi a little later are unspeakably horrifying. No, the drama is there all right, but tempo relations are carefully managed, orchestral textures and dynamics skilfully balanced, allowing the work to emerge as a coherent whole, a single, brilliantly executed canvass. This is maintained as far as the hollow victory of the final page, where the conductor – in an apparently minority view – respects the score by cutting the final bell/cymbal/gong notes at the same time as the rest of the orchestra. I could go on. It would be remiss, for example, not to mention the marvellous cor anglais playing, so bleak, so sad, yet so terribly eloquent and noble, in the long passage before the coda of the final movement.
I think this is a marginally finer performance than Petrenko’s rightly praised reading with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra on Naxos. It makes out a more convincing case for the work in purely musical terms. It does, however, cost quite a lot more. I certainly think it a finer performance than that of Rostropovich, for reasons alluded to above. Testament have a performance from André Cluytens with the French National Radio Orchestra. Recorded in 1958, this is a reading of white-hot intensity, and those who admire this symphony should not be without it. They should also try to find a copy of a disc issued free last year with the BBC Music Magazine. Kirill Karabits conducts the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in a very fine performance indeed, live from the Lighthouse in Poole. It is seriously marred, though, by one thing: present on the night, sadly for this rest of us, was the most idiotic, selfish, arrogant bravo-shouter I have ever heard. I hope he’s reading this.
William Hedley

See also review by Dan Morgan March RECORDING OF THE MONTH



Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.