Aureole etc.




Nimbus on-line




If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider

 


Enjoy the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra wherever you are. App available for iOS and Android

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage


Decca Phase 4 - 40CDs


Judith Bailey, George Lloyd


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

REVIEW
RECORDING OF THE MONTH



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 

alternatively
CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS
Sound Samples & Downloads

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Symphony No 11 in G minor The Year 1905 (1957)
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra/Yevgeny Mravinsky
rec. 1959
REGIS RRC1387 [60:22]

Experience Classicsonline


This reissue takes us right back to one of Shostakovich’s most authoritative interpreters. Yevgeny Mravinsky (1903-1988) gave the first performances of no fewer than six Shostakovich symphonies - numbers 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 12 - and though he didn’t lead the première of the Eleventh symphony, he performed it in Leningrad on 3 November 1957, just four days after it had been unveiled in Moscow. Regis give no information about the date of the recording beyond stating that it was “first published in 1961”. However, in his very informative notes Gavin Dixon says that this recording was set down in 1959, presumably for the Melodiya label.
 
As you might expect, given that the source is a Soviet recording made over fifty years ago, the sound is on the raw side at times. However, I found nothing in the sound that detracted from the performance; on the contrary, the sound plays its part in imparting a sense of the history of the piece itself. Because the symphony was first performed in 1957 and because it was inspired by the unsuccessful revolution of 1905 in Russia it’s often been thought that it may be the composer’s response to the suppression of the 1956 Hungarian uprising. It’s possible that that is indeed the case - at least up to a point. However Gavin Dixon tells us that the symphony was originally intended to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1905 uprising but that personal preoccupations prevented Shostakovich from finishing it on schedule though he had made a good deal of progress on the work before the tumultuous events in Hungary.
 
If there was a subversive political agenda behind the work Shostakovich managed to cover his tracks well: the work was a conspicuous success both with the public and with officialdom and it was awarded the Lenin Prize in 1958.
 
Mravinsky leads an imposing performance. The first movement, ‘The Palace Square’, opens in what I can only call glacial expectancy though the rather close recording doesn’t allow the orchestra to sound as hushed as is the case on, say, Vasily Petrenko’s 2008 Naxos recording or, indeed, James DePriest’s very eloquent 1988 reading with the Helsinki Philharmonic on Delos; both of those are modern digital recordings. However, any sonic limitations are more than offset by the brooding intensity and tension that Mravinsky generates. Furthermore, even when playing quietly, the Leningrad orchestra plays with significant weight of tone. I think this must be a very difficult movement for a conductor to bring off since it’s all about atmosphere rather than development; but Mravinsky never lets the music sag.
 
In the graphic second movement, ‘The 9th of January’, Mravinsky whips up a real storm at times and there’s huge power in the playing. The orchestral sound features the traditional Russian brass timbres, which have now largely vanished from the scene. Indeed, there’s a raw edge to the orchestral sound - not to be confused with crudity - that’s really appropriate for this music. During the string fugue (from 10:46) the players really dig in and the playing has tremendous intensity. The performance is viscerally exciting and a very Russian sound - occasionally blaring - is produced. The percussion-dominated climax (from 13:15) has burning urgency - the pace is frenetic - and really does sound like fusillades of shots. At 14:25 the music cuts off abruptly - and Mravinsky’s cut-off is razor sharp - before a pianissimo return to material from the first movement. This passage is quite chilling; the protesting crowds of 1905 have been dispersed - or cut down.
 
The third movement, ‘Eternal Memory’, stems from an extended melody - a lament for the fallen - which begins on the violas. Mravinsky builds this movement impressively, achieving an impassioned main climax (from 7:32). The finale, ‘The Tocsin’, is something of an enigma. Superficially it sounds like a musical depiction of a triumph for Soviet Socialist Realism; but is it? As Gavin Dixon points out, the bells that feature in this movement alternate between major and minor but end on the minor. To my ears, it’s in some ways the weakest movement in the work but here it is given a scalding performance. The brass playing has raw power and there’s a towering climax before, once again, the music sinks back into another reprise of the glacial material from the first movement. This presages an extended, bleak threnody for cor anglais. Mravinsky takes this very broadly. His cor anglais player offers doleful eloquence and this passage is a true lament, again indicating this is no mere triumphalist movement - if there is triumph it’s been hard won. After the lament the music picks up speed once again and becomes very dramatic; the bass drum thwacks sound like cannon shots. The conclusion is blazing and biting.
 
This is a great performance of a symphony that I’ve long felt is underrated in the Shostakovich canon. In view of a recent discussion on the MusicWeb International Message Board I thought it would be interesting to compare this Mravinsky recording with the aforementioned Vasily Petrenko recording on Naxos, not least because these two recordings will compete at about the same price point. The Petrenko disc wasn’t one of those that I have appraised for MusicWeb International but I bought it and think it has much to commend it though I know it attracted some contrasting verdicts among my colleagues (review and review). David Barker felt it stood up well amid the competition when he compiled his Eleven 11s survey. It should be noted, however, that this Mravinsky account wasn’t available to David at the time.
 
At the risk of making an obvious point, the Naxos recording (2008) is sonically superior to the sound that the Soviet engineers produced for Mravinsky fifty-one years before. Significantly, the Naxos recording registers genuine pp playing; the Mravinsky recording does not. Yet even here matters aren’t quite that straightforward. The less refined and closer Melodiya sound imparts an immediacy that’s at one with Mravinsky’s interpretation. Some may feel, as I tend to do, that the Naxos sound has the Liverpool orchestra set a bit too far back. The playing in the Petrenko performance is assured and technically excellent but it’s arguable that it’s a bit too smooth. For instance, I mentioned the fugal passage for strings in I. Petrenko’s orchestra, well though they play, are nowhere near the level of hair-raising intensity of Mravinsky’s superbly drilled Leningrad Philharmonic. Wind forward a little in the same movement and Petrenko is impressive in the extended climax section but he doesn’t achieve the electrifying urgency of Mravinsky, nor is his cut-off after the climax quite as abrupt as the effect that the older conductor achieves. Mravinsky’s interpretation of I is appreciably more spacious than Petrenko’s; he takes nearly two minutes longer. In IV the most telling comparison lies in the cor anglais passage I mentioned earlier. Mravinsky takes appreciably longer than Petrenko over this passage (from 8:39 to 12:10); in the newer recording it’s over half a minute shorter (8:34 to 11:34). The Liverpool cor anglais player, who plays most expressively, is more integrated into the overall orchestral texture, which some may prefer; the Russian player is rather in a spotlight. On the other hand, the relative distancing of the Naxos recording lessens the intensity, I feel. One final detail. At the very end of IV Petrenko allows the bell chime to continue resonating after the rest of the orchestra has fallen silent: Mravinsky does not.
 
After auditioning these two performances side by side I came to the following conclusions. Petrenko’s recording has much to commend it and I shall not lightly discard it; it makes a good bargain-priced choice, if a safe one. However, Mravinsky offers the less cultivated but surely authentic experience. This is an interpretation of the time in which the symphony appeared and, moreover, it’s by one of Shostakovich’s greatest interpreters. Mravinsky offers an interpretation of raw power which confronts the listener. I think I’d sum up the comparison by suggesting that Petrenko plays the symphony but Mravinsky lives it. This is one of those recordings that’s an essential element in any Shostakovich collection.
 
John Quinn  

Masterwork Index: Symphony 11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

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

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      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

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

Nostalgia

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

Comment
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

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
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
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
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
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
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.