Shostakovich Symphony No. 11 - Sunday Telegraph

This is the symphony about the day in 1905 when workers went unarmed to deliver a petition to the Tsar in St Petersburg and were fired on by troops, 200 being killed and 500 wounded. There is a continuing argument about whether Shostakovich was currying favour with the Soviet authorities by composing this symphony to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1917 revolution or whether it is a commentary on the suppression of the Hungarian revolution in 1956. The arguments pro and con are cogently presented by David Fanning in his admirable sleeve-note. There will be little dispute that the music, for all its obviously cinematic features, is powerful and moving. Most of the themes are quotations from or derivations of revolutionary songs. The opening movement depicting the Palace Square in the winter night is a poetic piece of scene-painting, while the Scherzo describing the massacre is Shostakovich at his most terrifying. The performance under Alexander Lazarev is magnificent, as is Linn's recording quality.

Sunday Telegraph
01 May 2005