RSNO Shostakovich-Symphony N.11 - Manchester Evenings News

12 August 2005
Manchester Evening News (3rd Edition)
Robert Beale
5 Stars


The Hall and BBC Philharmonic celebrate the centenary of Shostakovich's birth next year with a complete cycle of his symphonies. Other may do similar things. Smart works, then, by the RSNO to see that one of them is actually about the year before he was born, and thus rates a celebration this year. The 11th symphony is a bit of an oddity in the Shostakovich canon, in that it is overtly programmatic, celebrating the bloody events of the Winter Palace massacre of 1905 (if you saw the film, Nicholas and Alexandra, you may remember the scene). They were part of Soviet mythology - and that is why one must ask whether the composer was not really doing what, on the surface, he might appear to be doing. Is it simply a "film score without a film" as some suggest? Is it carefully masked protest against the suppression of the Hungarian uprising of 1956, as later anti-Soviet orthodoxy insists? I suspect the agenda was neither, but a more typically Shostakovichian one of taking the mythology he and his contemporaries all knew and refracting it in a way that made it parable for many later repressions and dashed hopes - there were enough of them. As a performance, this is wonderful and brilliant playing    
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