Yakov Kreizberg / Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra

Chostakovitch: Symphonie No. 11 "L'Année 1905"

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Among the numerous releases of Shostakovich's symphonies that have appeared in the 21st century (did anyone foresee this flood?) are quite a few of the Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Op. 103 ("The Year 1905"). This work, one of the composer's most public in nature, commemmorates the abortive Russian Revolution of 1905. Shostakovich might have had the crushed Hungarian uprising of 1956 in mind (the symphony was composed the following year), but it's hard to tell from the music alone; this interpretation rests on his disputed communications with Solomon Volkov. The language of the symphony lies somewhere in between Mussorgsky and film music, and it is a rousing, cinematic work with strong programmatic references. None of Shostakovich's 15 symphonies is exactly a walk in the park for the orchestra, but the Symphony No. 11 is perhaps the most exacting of all. The absolute best of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo is elicited by Russian-born conductor Yakov Kreizberg, who builds the long climaxes of the work with a master hand. This was one of the last recordings made by Kreizberg, who died of an unidentified illness in 2011. Less familiar to North American than to European audiences, Kreizberg was unparalleled in just this kind of repertory: big Eastern European symphonic works, with large dynamic ranges and gestures lasting many minutes. If this is not Shostakovich's most profound work, it's still an immensely satisfying performance, and a fine souvenir of a career cut short too soon.

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