Lenin lives on in Shostakovich’s great symphony

Published 18 October 2017 

Shostakovich 12

by DAVID NICHOLSON at St David’s Hall, Cardiff 5/5 Stars

THE BBC National Orchestra of Wales marked the centenary of the Russian revolution with a masterful rendition of Dmitry Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 12, The Year 2017, also known as the Lenin Symphony.

The Soviet composer’s work, celebrating the Bolshevik-led revolution and marking Lenin’s unique contribution to it, was completed in August 1961 and performed to great acclaim in the Soviet Union the same year.

The opening movement, Revolutionary Petrograd, evocatively conveys the chaos and promise of the pre-October months of the short-lived Provisional government.

This beautiful opening leads into the adagio, Razliv, named after the village where Lenin went into hiding to avoid arrest. But it is the third movement where the helter-skelter excitement and tension mount as the shot rings out from the cruiser Aurora to mark the assault on the Winter Palace.

The orchestra, under the determined baton of conductor Thomas Sondergard, brings the work to a thrilling conclusion as the composer’s final movement, The Dawn of Humanity, conveys the optimism of a new age sweeping away the old social orders.

The evening opened with Alexander Mosolov’s little-known work from 1927, The Iron Foundry, op. 19. It celebrated the Revolution’s 10th anniversary and was originally intended to be part of a complete ballet called Steel.

The BBC players were having a ball, as were the audience, as they conveyed the heat and noise of an industrial foundry, right down to the percussion section hammering a piece of drainpipe and a large iron sheet.

It is four minutes of muscular wonder as the orchestra is transformed into a joyous celebration of industrialisation and the power of workers forging the steel transforming the vast Soviet Union.

These two works are a powerful reminder of the outpouring of creativity and hope following the epochal events of October 1917 they can still be heard on the BBC iPlayer.

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