Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Op. 103 (The Year 1905)
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The Shostakovich "Symphony No. 11, Op. 103 (The Year 1905)," stands somewhat apart from his other works. It has a cinematic style that pleased the Soviet bureaucracy that just a few years earlier had been harassing the composer, but Shostakovich suggested that the stirring acts of resistance depicted, from the Russian Revolution of 1905, found echoes in Hungary's uprising against the Soviet Union in 1956. More important, although the music outwardly resembles a film score -- it is episodic, more tonal than average for Shostakovich, and in many passages directly programmatic -- its large-scale construction sets it decisively apart from cinema music. Consider the opening movement: whatever interpretation of the work one may favor, it is a virtuoso expression of foreboding, with quiet strings extended over much of the nearly 18-minute movement. Here, conductor John Storgårds and the BBC Philharmonic rise to virtuoso heights, with a long line that keeps the listener on tenterhooks. Storgårds is a specialist in Sibelius as well as some of the Baltic minimalists, and he is second to none in tracing a vast structure and bringing an orchestra along with him. He's considerably slower in the stirring finale than Vasily Petrenko with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and those who prefer a more menacing Shostakovich may gravitate toward that reading, but listener mileage may vary, and the top-notch Chandos engineering, bringing out the BBC Philharmonic's fine brass work in the middle movements, is a plus in this strong Shostakovich performance.