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New Naxos Shostakovich Symphonies Cycle Progressing Smoothly

September 18, 2009

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Vasily Petrenko
From 28 to 30 July 2009, Philharmonic Hall, Hope Street, Liverpool, resounded with the full-throttle sound of Shostakovich’s Symphonies Nos 1 and 12 as the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko undertook their third session on the way to recording the complete Shostakovich Symphonies for Naxos.

Producer Andrew Walton writes: ‘The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra had not played these two symphonies in concert before under Vasily Petrenko (although the RLPO did perform Symphony No. 1 in concert more than a decade ago in 1998), so the sessions were in some ways very creative in that we were finding an interpretation—not that hard as Petrenko has a very clear idea as to what he wants and how to achieve it. He’s a very exciting musician.’

Conductor Vasily Petrenko was very pleased with the outcome, noting that he felt the recording sessions went smoothly and to plan. The musicians enjoyed the music and Vasily enjoyed conducting.

Shostakovich wrote his Symphony No 1 in F minor Op 10 between 1924 and 1925 as his graduation piece at the Leningrad Conservatory, completing it at the age of 19. It was premiered on 12 May 1926 in St Petersburg by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Nikolai Malko and was a great success. Indeed, many still number it among Shostakovich’s finest works. By turns witty and fresh, dramatic and yet suffused with a chamber-music lightness, it might suggest to some listeners the influence of Richard Strauss (Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks has been mentioned), Prokofiev and Stravinsky (whose music the young Shostakovich had recently heard). Yet the stamp of the young composer’s original voice, as yet untarnished by any bitterness caused by later Soviet opprobrium, is evident throughout.

His Symphony No 12 in D minor Op 112 ‘The Year of 1917’, was composed in 1961 and dedicated to the memory of Lenin. Premiered in October 1961 by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra under Yevgeny Mravinsky, it seems that Shostakovich had it in mind to compose such a tribute to the Bolshevik leader as early as the late 1930s. Its four movements are programmatic in conception. ‘Revolutionary Petrograd’ sets the scene and quotes a Russian revolutionary song and the Polish song The Warsaw March, as well as motives from the famous Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. The slow second movement ‘Razliv’ takes its name from Lenin’s headquarters in the countryside outside Petrograd and quotes music from the Eleventh Symphony as well as his Funeral March for the Victims of the Revolution. The scherzo third movement ‘Aurora’ commemorates the battleship that fired on the Winter Palace as the Russian Revolution began. In the finale, ‘The Dawn of Humanity’, Shostakovich represents Soviet life under Lenin’s leadership and transforms the funeral march quoted in the second movement into a jubilant celebration. While some commentators feel that the Twelfth is Shostakovich’s least successful symphony, its overarching programmatic character and direct musical style, which have affinities with film music, make it a powerful musical experience.

Vasily Petrenko Biography & Discography

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra Biography & Discography


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