Shostakovich: Symphony No. 11, "The Year 1905"

Part of the RNO/PentaTone Shostakovich Cycle
The Palace Square – Adagio
The Ninth of January – Allegro
In memoriam - Adagio
The Tocsin – Allegro non troppo
Mikhail Pletnev, conductor
Pentatone SACD
Purchase via RNO Pentatone Music iTunes


Best of 2006, Soundstage

Classical CD of the Week, The Telegraph, London



In the second movement, the malaise of the surging crowd and the menace from the authorities is palpable. Over a 19-minute span, Pletnev develops a cogent dramatic contour-there's a screenplay to follow in this famously cinematic music that requires careful pacing... But Pletnev doesn't present the material as a film score, or even a tone poem: there's still the rigor of a disciplined symphonic argument.

BBC Music Magazine

Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra... pack a mighty punch in the finale, projecting the stream of revolutionary songs that jostle with each other for prominence with unbridled vehemence. The brilliant recording accommodates the seemingly relentless wave of aggression from the orchestra’s brass and percussion section with chilling immediacy... Pletnev is skillful in harnessing the funereal intensity of the slow movement, the shattering climax without a hint of self-indulgence.


The Russian musicians play Symphony No.11 to perfection. Pletnev goes for the jugular in his dramatic reading, and some of the climaxes are hair-raising.

Pletnev and his superbly performing orchestra succeeds in delivering a particularly fluid first movement; Pletnev conducts with a light hand, allowing the work to resonate and achieve an immense, unavoidable intensity. The piece approaches symphonic poetry... The Russian National Orchestra has been one of the world's foremost orchestras in the world since its founding in 1990 and to this day arouses enthusiasm with its thoughtful and focused music.

Audiophile Audition

This spectacular surround recording of the 11th was made while the orchestra was on tour of Europe, in a fine hall in Brussels.... the work seems to move along better than any other performance I have auditioned, and both the playing and sonics are beyond reproach. The RNO disc has richer sound, better surround ambiance, more sprightly tempi and more drama than the [Rostropovich] LSO SACD. Dramatic is certainly the correct word for the entrance of the loud snare drum in the middle of the second movement, announcing the advance of the Tsar's troops. It is nothing short of startling.

The Russian musicians play Symphony No. 11 to perfection. Pletnev goes for the jugular in his dramatic reading, and some of the climaxes are hair-raising.

Classics Today

Mikhail Pletnev's Shostakovich Symphony No. 11 excels beyond the much-hyped Rostropovich version... [Pletnev’s] lively phrasing, attention to rhythm, and powerful dynamic contrast makes for compelling listening. Even the long, slow first movement--fatal in the wrong hands--remains interesting due to Pletnev's insistent rhythmic pulse and skillfully maintained tension. This tension gets released in the swirling winds and strings of the second movement, and even more so in the gripping march at the movement's conclusion. The Russian National Orchestra takes on these passages with discernible enthusiasm... [The live recording] reproduces with exceptional clarity on stereo SACD... [This] is a good choice for those desiring to hear the Eleventh played by a Russian orchestra, in modern sound.

International Record Review

[Pletnev] gets to grips with the opening 'Palace Square' - setting the scene graphically and thematically, and with a pervasive sense of the ominous. The interplay of revolutionary songs is deftly integrated within the fabric of the movement as a whole.

The Telegraph, London

The music's expressive extremes of ominous stillness and rhythmic violence are ideally judged in this new recording from Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra... The PentaTone [disc] is advertised as being recorded at a single concert in Brussels, but you would never guess from either the background silence or the impeccable accuracy of the ensemble. The sound itself is typically full and well-blended.

I was totally gripped from start to finish by this beautifully paced live performance. It is fantastically recorded, and captures what must have been a thrilling concert... Throughout this work, Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra understand deeply the exact nature and large-scale structure of this dramatically paced and vast symphonic canvas. It’s not only the whole that is well conceived, but detail, consistently well-balanced chords and the vividness of orchestral palette, too... The architecture, structural integrity, and faultless sense of dramatic intensity of this work is astonishing... Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra have [the] concentration, focus and sheer brilliance to make the Shostakovich 11 shine like the real gem it is.

Bay Area Reporter

…performances of real weight and consequence…that belong in every Shostakovich-lover's collection…. Pletnev's broad experience conducting Russian ballet makes him a natural at bringing the narrative element forward, and the orchestra he established in 1990 plays with its customary, expert devotion for him. The concluding "The Tocsin," which refers to the sound of warning bells, bores into your skull. Earlier, after the entrance of the low winds, the Adagio of the "In memoriam" wrings you out without going for the jugular.

Pletnev... attacks the musical score with a big heart... insisting on the logic of its construction, on its dramatic progression, while still paying close attention to the clarity of its textures. The RNO performance is one of the best... this album, distinguished by its gorgeous sound, is a must for all lovers of Shostakovich.

Chicago Tribune

Nearly an hour long, the work [Shostakovich Symphony No. 11] is prolix but vividly atmospheric, demanding a committed performance plus the most detailed sound reproduction. This new hybrid disc (combined CD and SACD) with a virtuosic orchestra and conductor delivers both, going to the top of the list of digital recordings.

A brilliant recording... Pletnev's balancing of the orchestra could almost be described as balletic on occasion... the humanity of the performance moves me more than some dramatic and "granite-like" performances do... The pacing throughout is masterly, as is the playing, and all the time one hears thematic relationships that adopting a slower tempo would find very hard to bring out. All in all, one's nerves are torn to shreds by the enormous contrasts that Shostakovich wrote, and Pletnev realises, in this score.... I would find it hard to recommend any other version musically above this interpretation - it chills me to the core with the oppressive material crushing the songful laments which were so beautifully played.

What They’re Saying

" awe-inspiring experience. Should human beings be able to play like this?"