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Shostakovich Symphony No. 11 - ClassicsToday.com


02 May 2005
ClassicsToday.com
David Hurwitz
5 Stars

Artistic Quality 10/Sound Quality 10
Disc Of The Month

It's a curious coincidence that so-called "second tier" U.K. orchestras, which so often play better than their London counterparts, have a lock on this particular symphony. For years my reference recording has been the sensational Berglund/Bournemouth set on EMI, outstandingly well recorded and originally coupled with an equally spectacular account of the Sixth Symphony. This new recording, even more sonically stunning both in stereo and SACD multichannel formats, might just be better still. Alexander Lazarev takes the opening movement at a much more flowing tempo than we usually hear (about 15 minutes in all, and three minutes quicker than Berglund), and since absolutely nothing noteworthy happens in it beyond the setting of mood, this strikes me as an excellent idea. Here (and throughout), the playing of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra brass section is beautifully contoured in quiet passages, only to become crushingly powerful in the climaxes that pepper the violent second movement. Lazarev's "massacre" section is one of the best (you know what I mean). The most controversial aspect of this interpretation will be the elegiac third movement, which Lazarev conducts at almost double the tempo of some other versions. It lasts a bit less than nine minutes, and it's certainly not an adagio, but it sounds wonderful when treated this way. For once the principal theme really sings (after all, it is a genuine revolutionary song), almost like one of Tchaikovsky's soulful, Russian-style melodies, and with so much other slow music in both the first and second movements Lazarev's decision makes excellent sense. He and his Scottish players then tear into the finale with a vengeance, culminating in the most hair-raising coda yet captured on disc, with crashing cymbals and tam-tam, clangorous bells, and a floor-shaking bass drum. It will take your breath away. We can only hope that Linn continues what promises to be a very exciting partnership with this excellent orchestra. A "demonstration disc" if ever there were one. Buy it, and drive your neighbors crazy.


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