Andris Nelsons / Boston Symphony Orchestra

Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 11 "The Year 1905"

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Continuing his series of the symphonies of Dmitry Shostakovich with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons presents the Symphony No. 4 in C minor and the Symphony No. 11 in G minor, "The Year 1905" on this 2018 Deutsche Grammophon release. Of the two works, the Symphony No. 4 has enjoyed tremendous post-millennial popularity in the west, with competitive releases by Neeme Järvi, Vasily Petrenko, Mariss Jansons, Valery Gergiev, and Mikhail Pletnev; its accessibility may be due in part to the symphony's strong associations with Gustav Mahler, whose influence is evident and provides listeners a handle on this bracing work. At the same time, the Symphony No. 11 has fared less well, perhaps because its programmatic commemoration of the first Russian revolution is too remote for modern audiences to appreciate, but its reception is complicated by other factors, such as Shostakovich's veiled critiques of the Stalin years. Musically, the Fourth is abstract, assertive, and virtuosic, with the innovative spirit of early Shostakovich, before the denunciation of 1936, while the more reflective Eleventh is almost cinematic in its scene painting. The live performances by the BSO are first-rate, with expressive depth and sonorous playing, particularly in the incisive brass, and the sound of the recording is exceptional to match, with a vividness, spaciousness, and clarity comparable to SACD quality.

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