Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 11
, “The Year 1905”
Yakov Kreizberg, cond; Monte Carlo PO
OPMC 005 (60:25)
This release stands as a sad but fitting tribute to Yakov Kreizberg, who passed away from a long, unspecified illness in March 2011 at age 51. The conductor—who in preparation for his career studied with, among others, Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas, and his older brother, Semyon Bychkov—received critical acclaim for his appearances with all of the major American
orchestras, as well as appointments as principal conductor and/or music director of the Bournemouth Symphony, Netherlands Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, and the Monte Carlo Orchestra. His recordings were frequently praised in these pages over the years, and in fact, in
30:6, Arthur Lintgen commented that “Kreizberg conducted Shostakovich’s 11th Symphony with the Philadelphia Orchestra in one of the most dramatic and incendiary live performances I have ever heard.”
The Monte Carlo Philharmonic may not be the Philadelphia Orchestra, and this performance may not reach such exalted heights, at least in my experience, but Kreizberg’s control, commitment, and attention to detail nevertheless make this one of the most competitive accounts of this symphony—admittedly one of Shostakovich’s less-inspired efforts—on disc. Though his overall timings
to be on the fast side (his brother actually shaves another minute off the total time in
version for the Avie label), and thus in keeping with the no-nonsense, clear-thinking precedent set by Evgeny Mravinsky, Kreizberg is deceptive in his manner of whipping up momentum in dramatic passages and then pulling back to focus on atmospheric details. In this regard he more closely resembles Mstislav Rostropovich, whose London Symphony interpretation (LSO Live) revels in atmosphere and scene-painting, albeit achieved through extremely slower pacing and enormous dynamic contrasts. Like Rostropovich, Kreizberg opens the first movement with an episode of contemplative foreboding, with an effecting distancing of flutes and brass, only gradually building tension. When, in the second movement, the forces of oppression attack (various commentators differ as to whether Shostakovich was portraying the Tsar’s troops slaughtering the peasants in 1905 or the Soviet military response to the Hungarian revolt of 1956), Kreizberg attempts to stir up agitation
Mravinsky, but the sound of his orchestra is somewhat diffuse and soft-focused, though the commitment is palpable. In the final two movements, unable to match Mravinsky’s taut tension of inevitable, unstoppable forces at work or the profound, expansive spirit of Rostropovich, he instead offers a view of lyrical restraint, consistent with his most effective passages of the first two movements and mitigating the potential bombast.
In recent years the 11th Symphony’s reputation has undergone something of a reclamation project, and
critics have lately had good things to say about recordings by Wigglesworth (BIS), Lazerev (Linn), Pletnev (PentaTone), and Petrenko (Naxos)—not to mention the historic accounts by Stokowski (EMI), Haitink (Decca), Berglund (EMI), and my choices above. Add to those this performance—well played, conceptually sustained, and dramatically engaging, a memorable display of conducting talent silenced much too soon.
FANFARE: Art Lange
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 11 in G minor, Op. 103 "Year 1905" by Dmitri Shostakovich
Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1957; USSR
Venue: l'Auditorium Rainer III, Monaco
Length: 60 Minutes 22 Secs.
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