Subtitled “the year 1905”, the work is, along with the second, third and twelfth symphonies, based on a programme of “revolution” subjects. Composed in 1956/57 to mark the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the October Revolution, it sought to graphically depict the “Bloody Sunday” massacre, when thousands of unarmed protesters were gunned down in front of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. Parallels however have been drawn with contemporary themes such as the Hungarian revolt of 1956, supressed by Soviet troops at a cost of some 20,000 lives.
The four movements of the symphony run into each other. The first, Palace Square, sets an oppressively calm atmosphere and incorporates the first of several revolutionary songs that feature in the work. The second movement entitled Ninth of January incorporates the theme from the second of Shostakovich’s Choral Poems and graphically depicts the atrocities of the event. The third movement In Memoriam incorporates a funeral march written in tribute to the lives lost in Bloody Sunday, whilst the final movement The Tocsin quotes songs of revolutionary struggle.
The Symphony was premièred on 30 October 1957 and received a mixed reception. On the one hand it was lauded by the Union of Composers, and earned Shostakovich a Lenin Prize from the Soviet authorities. This contrasts with a review in the Musical Times in March 1958 of a performance by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Sir Malcolm Sargent, which concluded “I find it hard to believe that this Symphony will bear repeated hearings”.
Why not decide for yourself?! Come to hear the Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra performing this work as part of Diego Masson’s 80th birthday celebration concert on 29th October at Blackheath Halls.
The following recordings can be listened to at the wall-mounted listening station at the north end of the Jerwood Library:
- Shostakovich Symphony No. 11 “The Year 1905”. Mstislav Rostropovich, National Symphony Orchestra. Elatus, 2003.
- Shostakovich Symphony No. 11. Mstislav Rostropovich, London Symphony Orchestra. ELSO Live, 2002.
- Shostakovich Symphony No. 11. Kirill Karabits, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. BBC Music, 2009.
Trinity Laban staff and students can also listen to streamed versions accessible via Quicksearch (limit the source type to audio).