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CD Feature/ Shostakovich: Symphony No 11

img  Tobias

This new SACD release by ARTS-Music turns out to be a truly exciting interpretation of an underrated piece.

The symphony no.11, named „The year 1905“, does not belong to Shostakovichs’ best known works. By writing this piece, he reveals himself as a political composer: He errects a memorial to the victims of the riots in 1905. At the time, a crowd of peacefully demonstrating people were killed at the Tsar’s command in St.Petersburg.
It is no accident that the symphony no.11 was written in 1956/57, shortly after one of the most bloody interventions of the Soviet army in Hungary. In his memoirs, Shostakovich mentions: „Even though it carries the name „The year 1905“, it nevertheless points to a present situation: A nation that has lost ist faith because too many crimes have been committed.“
In a way, this symphony can be considered a dirge composed in the language of the victims and their suffering – all of which can be heard in Shostakovich’s music.

The symphony beginns in a mood between darkness and decay, expressed by a kind of dramaturgical minimalism, brilliantly played by the Orchestra Sinfoninca di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, conducted by Oleg Caetani: You do not dare to breathe during this movement; motives and themes come and go and vanish and reappear like ghosts in a world much too silent and secluded, concealing its profound suffering. We can feel a certain ‘suspense’: Something terrible is about to happen. The second movement portraits the battle and the battlefield, the third, which one might call a ‘De Profundis’, it is a lament for the dead.

And like the other movements, the last one is based on glorifying revolutionary songs; but they glorify only seemingly: Caetani masterly manages to let us feel the dramaturgical gap between the first three movements and the last one: It is out of place, much too glorious, too optimistic to be true. By composing this devalued climax, inserted into a context which actually negates any kind of that splendour, we can tell the truth from the illusion of victory. (It is an effect comparable to the famous finale of symphony No. 5). To judge by appearances, it is a climax. But looking at it again, it turns out to be only a fake, an anti-climax.

An extraordinary experience…

By Jan Goffhorn

Homepage: Arts Music
Homepage: Oleg Caetani
Homepage: Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi


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