Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 12 "The Year 1917'"

Vasily Petrenko

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Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 12 "The Year 1917'" Review

by Blair Sanderson

The sixth volume in Vasily Petrenko's complete cycle of the symphonies of Dmitry Shostakovich presents a peculiar match-up of the Symphony No. 6 in B minor, an entirely abstract work, and the programmatic Symphony No. 12 in D minor, "The Year 1917." Such a pairing is only for the convenience of organizing this set, so the two works need not be examined for any hidden musical connections or common subject matter. In 1938, Shostakovich intended to compose a setting of a Mayakovsky poem on Lenin, though by 1939 his ideas had developed into the Sixth Symphony, devoid of any tribute to the Soviet leader. Similarly, the Twelfth Symphony was conceived in 1960 as music for a commemoration of Lenin, but by its 1961 premiere, the work was fully formed as a depiction of events in the Bolshevik revolution. No matter what had been originally suggested or removed in the course of composition, Shostakovich's music in both symphonies is powerful and profoundly moving, and the depth of the composer's personality comes through, with or without narrative elements. Under Petrenko's leadership, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is convincing in the performances, which convey the pathos and excitement that mark the Sixth, and the intense Russian fervor and heroism of the Twelfth. Naxos offers clear sound with a wide audio range, though the extremes can be heard comfortably with minimal adjustment of the volume.

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