All this darkness suffocates me. How ironic if Stalin’s lifelong attempts to fetter his composer prodigy might actually have been the stimulus behind Shostakovich becoming the exceptional musical voice for the realities of the Soviet Union in the twentieth century. 3. Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his Symphony No. 2 in B, op. 3 in E flat major, Op. The composer’s trade-mark musical gestures are all immediately obvious. It has been likened to the opening chapter of a novel, setting the tone for all that follows. Cellist/conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, who knew Shostakovich well, took a more universal approach when he said the Eleventh is “a symphony written in blood, a truly tragic work. These early, enigmatic works point to a lifetime of ambiguity and double-speak. ( Log Out / It’s about 20-ish seconds, depending on ambient noise, before you hear the low mumbles of the ensemble in this first and longest movement. Wikipedia explains it thusly, citing Ian MacDonald’s The New Shostakovich: Shostakovich composed his Second in a gestural, geometric “music without emotional structure” manner, with the intent of reflecting speech patterns and physical movements in a neo-realistic style. Explain that Shostakovich put secret messages and codes into his music as a clever way of avoiding Stalins rules. 93 (1953) 2 - Symphony #5 in D minor, Op. 14 no. 14 and subtitled To October, for the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution.It was first performed by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra and the Academy Capella Choir under Nikolai Malko, on 5 November 1927.After the premiere, Shostakovich made some revisions to the score, and this final version was first played in Moscow … ( Log Out / The second movement then feels very much like a scherzo. Wikipedia tells us that it is “meditative” and that Shostakovich described it as “the “death of a child” (letter to Boleslav Yavorsky) killed on the Nevsky Prospekt.”. In fact, I’d already made that note before I’d gone back to read the end of the Wikipedia article, which cites the quote that opens this article. But for Shostakovich, it need not have been a question of one or the other. Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducts Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in A, K. 219, ‘Turkish’. The Fifth Symphony, finished by Shostakovich in 1937, is probably the most frequently performed of his symphonies, and it’s easy to understand why. To cry out in terror. 47 (1937) Alban Berg was even moved to write a flattering letter of appreciation. Dmitri Shostakovich, Mstislav Rostropovich, London Symphony Orchestra - Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. Shostakovich's next misstep came with the Fourth Symphony, which he had been composing in his mind for some time. From sheer misery, I’ve started to compose the finale of the symphony. 2 (Shostakovich) Last updated February 10, 2020. 9 in E, op. In many people’s minds it represented more an ideal of what the Revolution stood for, rather than the reality of regimented Bolshevik doctrine. The Soviet Union had discovered its first international star, the first to be trained solely under the new system rather than old imperialist Russia, and the authorities proclaimed him as an exaltation of the new at the expense of the old. 2013 Preview SONG TIME Piano Concerto No. And here he is: we are this week and next discussing the second and third symphonies of Prokofiev and… Shostakovich. Written at the age of eighteen, Shostakovich’s First Symphony was the graduation piece that completed his studies at the Leningrad Conservatory. It was a commission from Lev Shuglin, “a dedicated Bolshevik and head of the Propaganda Department of the State Music Publishing House (Muzsektor), to write a large orchestral work with a choral finale.” Shostakovich wanted to move away from the style of his first symphony, and had other projects he wanted to work on. Stalin had asked for light and boisterous finales. 2 in C-sharp minor for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 129. A flute echoes the material, and there’s something of a fanfare, but almost not even any music here… As is stated on Wiki: Meant to portray the primordial chaos from which order emerged, instrumental voices merge in this 13-voice polyphonic beginning, like impulses released from the void. The piece is in one unbroken movement made up of four sections, with the last containing a part for chorus. Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. It received its premiere on November 5, 1927 with the Leningrad Philharmonic under Nikolai Malko. Starting piano lessons with his mother when he was eight, he was writing a Pushkin-inspired opera by the age of nine. Such a work was entirely appropriate for the occasion for which it was being written. In time, this much repeated role would become as much a burden to him as it was a saving grace. Of course, the very specific demands of the symphony’s “programme” meant that he couldn’t keep that level of innovation up…and then there’s the glaring blemish that is that choral finale (although it’s interesting that, even amidst the supposed jubilation, DSCH can’t resist bringing back echoes of the opening…twice, in fact!). Or is Shostakovich simply trying to draw a clearly defined line between the music he wanted to write and the music he had to write? And completing his Symphony No 4 – a big brute of a work – he withdrew the planned Leningrad premiere in '36, after denunciation by the State. etc. Walter, Toscanini, and Klemperer all performed it. And yet, despite suffering from malnutrition and tuberculosis, there are also stories of him losing his job for laughing too much at the Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin films he was employed to accompany. DMITRI DMITRIEVICH SHOSTAKOVICH BORN: September 25, 1906.Saint Petersburg DIED: August 9, 1975.Moscow. Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. 12 in D minor, Op. Like Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, another piece he admired, the disconcerting idea of human beings as puppets, with their actions manipulated by unseen string-pullers from on high, was one that stayed with the composer right the way through to his final symphony, written almost fifty years later. Shostakovich may well have been a supporter of the philosophies that led to the October Revolution in the first place, but his inability to write any musical notes at all for the final lines, instead simply asking for the words to be declaimed without pitch, seems an indication of how he perceived the soulless climate of the time. As we will see, the lack of inspiration thankfully didn’t last, but this is also a reflection of the social, political and artistic climate of the time. This apparent contradiction was a personality trait that would stay with him his whole life, and the sometimes juddering juxtaposition of the lighted-hearted with the profound marked his compositions from the very beginning. Or learn more… Or learn more… Recordings: Bernard Haitink: Royal … The directors of the conservatory were excited by the genius they felt they had nurtured and arranged for the symphony to be performed by Nikolai Malko and the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. According to the poet Mayakovsky, artists should ‘spit out the past like a bone stuck in our throats… Our duty is to blare like brass-throated horns in the fogs of bourgeois vulgarity.’ Is this the explanation behind the extraordinary factory siren that heralds in the arrival of the chorus and their ‘abominable’ words? Only those with the shortest of musical memories can listen to the rousing choral finale with a sense of triumph and joy. Shostakovich said at the time that he ‘always wanted to create music that reflects our era, and the thoughts and the feelings of the Soviet person’, but it is unclear whether he intended this symphony’s opening thematic chaos and abstractly expressionistic textures to represent the hardship of before the Revolution or the emotional blandness that followed. Change ), You are commenting using your Google account. But this relatively comfortable middle-class childhood would not last long. Even today, people wonder just what Shostakovich was trying to say. But the style was about to change. But to many, the triumph rang hollow. Voting game from the old Amazon forum: Shostakovich symphonies: 1 - Symphony #10 in E minor, Op. Symphony No. 8 in Cm, op. 5 at our European Tour Preview Concerts with Hilary Hahn on February 23, 24 & 25. Shostakovich Symphony no. I agree with you utterly about the merits of no.3 (although I hope I’m not pre-empting what you yourself were going to say about it) – if ever there was a case of giving the authorities exactly what they wanted, in the form of a here-today-gone-tomorrow Socialist Realist musical slogan (albeit giving it voluntarily, which is savagely ironic given how they damn near broke him over the course of later life for daring to write anything other)! I am a big fan of Shostakovich, especially the piano works (24 preludes and fugues, piano concertos and piano quintet are all incredible), but this was the latest work of his I had ever heard. Shostakovich’s last wartime symphony was the Ninth (1945), commissioned by the state to commemorate the USSR’s victory over Germany. There’s a brassy moment of triumph in this movement, one that would put a pretty nice cap on this work if it were just an overture-like tone poem along the lines of Stravinsky’s Feu d’artifice, but the thing has to continue, doesn’t it? 44: I. Allegro brillante. But perhaps it was not only that work’s orchestration, with its soloistic piano part, that fascinated the student composer. Program Notes: Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. Instead, the final lines are chanted rather than sung: This is the slogan and this is the name of living generations: Composed at the age of 18, Shostakovich’s First Symphony was written to fulfill the graduation requirements of the Leningrad Conservatory (earning him the equivalent of a college music degree), and would take the international music world by storm the following year. Symphony No. Composer Dmitri Shostakovich was already in the doghouse after performances of his 1934 opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Bolshevik (1920), by Boris Kustodiev.. Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his Symphony No. Some revisions to this score were made, and the final version was played a few weeks later in Moscow. Find album reviews, stream songs, credits and award information for Shostakovich: Symphony No. Still, for me it stands as a fascinating glimpse of the composer who might have been but for the Lady Macbeth debacle, etc. Doubts and problems. 1, and the Symphony … Concerto No. 9 thoughts on “ Seeking Shostakovich: Listening to the Tenth Symphony (Part 2 of 2) ” T. March 31, 2014 at 3:19 AM It is so refreshing and lovely to read about you wanting joy for Shostakovich, because of your experience with his music. Is this moment intended to point out the difference between the past and the present or is it supposed to show the gap between the private artist and the public composer – a gap that would be one of the defining features of Shostakovich’s entire life? The work was composed for the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution. 2. The finale reaches a clear climax, cymbal crash and all, but a snare drum made of pure tragedy doesn’t let the piece end. But…I dunno…there’s something about no.2 that keeps me coming back for more, beginning with the intro, whose very teeming nebulousness marks it out as among the most boldly avant garde music he ever wrote. This is the Shostakovich Symphony 5 violin excerpt from mvt 1, Rehearsal number 32 until 36. It’s a reminder that this work was commissioned, or as the case may be, demanded, from the composer by Shuglin, and the interesting circumstances he was in, wanting to compose something new, and being saddled with this patriotic idea. In the Sixth Symphony, Shostakovich wanted to express an illogical and contradictory world and so chose a form that is both those things. Shostakovich was bitterly attacked in the official press, and both the opera and the still unperformed Symphony No. In 1937 Russia, at the height of Stalin’s purges, the Communist Party strongly denounced Dmitri Shostakovich’s most recent works. His well-educated mother had to work thirteen-hour days as a cashier and Shostakovich was forced to spend many after-school hours as a silent-movie pianist to help the family cope with the hardships of the post-Revolutionary economy. 1 and 2 Christopher Lyndon-Gee, Michael Houstoun & New Zealand Symphony … It could be that his choice of key was even intended as a public show of respect for Beethoven, who used the same heroic tonality for his own Third Symphony. In the 1960s, however, he was happy for them to be performed, yet towards the end of his life he begged his son not to conduct them! After the 1917 Revolution, Shostakovich’s bourgeois family background proved a distinct disadvantage in the new social order that ensued. After a deceptively light opening, the music hurls itself helter-skelter into a series of episodes that seem to collide up against each other with little meaning or purpose, sometimes breathlessly agitated, other times disconcertingly empty. But unlike its predecessor, this was not a commissioned piece and, as such, it raises interesting questions about the composer’s freely made decision to celebrate the international labour movement’s May Day celebrations. The idea of October was not necessarily the same thing as its reality. Wiki mentions “the notion of “industrial” symphonies intended to inspire the proletariat.” Thank goodness that phase is over. Stalin’s grip on power was starting to make itself felt. His recent opera The Nose had not been well received, and despite his previous success, he certainly would not have felt immune to the vulnerability of his time. Maybe it was this combination of views that allowed him to write music that spoke to so many, and offended so few. 20 ‘The First of May’ Everything old was rejected, the individual was becoming depersonalised. The memoirist Ilya Ehrenburg has written of ‘a generation without tears, callous, a stranger to tender passion and to art’. © Mark Wigglesworth 2012. If we think about it more like a Strauss tone poem than a Shostakovich symphony, maybe it’ll seem more convincing. The upbeat nature of the two scherzos should sound hollow, the phoney heartlessness of large groups of people. Shostakovich had started to experience some of that ‘struggle’ first-hand. Initially described by the composer as a symphonic poem, the piece was eventually entitled ‘Symphonic Dedication – To October’. Nervous tension and sarcastic wit, passion and intelligence, contemplation and action, nobility and banality – all expressed with an economy of means that is simultaneously subtle and direct. 14 ‘To October’ 7 "Leningrad" Kurt Masur & New York Philharmonic Shostakovich: Piano Concertos No. October, the Commune and Lenin. 1, Beethoven Piano Sonata no. (This was not performed until 1961, during the Kruschev era.) The première, on 12th May 1926, was an enormous success, and it was not long before the work gained worldwide recognition. 103 'The year 1905' WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln, Semyon Bychkov The performance from the WDR Symphony Orchestra is compelling at both ends of the dynamic spectrum, from the heart-rending funereal … Fearing for his life, the young composer wrote a symphony ending with a rousing march. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t strike me as a particularly compelling elevator pitch. But if they seem crude or illogical, that reflects the brutality and ideologically confused spirit of the age. The classicism is most apparent in the first movement, which follows 18th-century sonata form right down to repeating the exposition (the only Shostakovich Symphony that does). That’s okay, though: there’s the first, symphonies 5-8, the less gargantuan ninth, followed then by the incredible tenth and eleventh… and four more. The third movement continues the acceleration of the work, but is now transparent and light, with a violin solo, accompanied by one woodwind after another joining the party. Written in 1929, in less than a month, the Third Symphony is another single-movement work with choral finale. It is unremittingly tragic, and not so much about 1905 or 1956, perhaps, as about the persistently tragic pattern in human events. The sound is not unlike the beginning of The Firebird in its low string ominousness; it just lacks shape. Beethoven was upheld as the artist most completely in tune with the social aspirations of his time and it was felt by many post-Revolutionary Russians that his death marked the start of the decline of the symphony as an art form altogether – one that could never be resurrected under the rampant capitalism of the west. 10 Who knows, if he’d been allowed to carry on composing in the same vein, we might have ended up with something like ’50s/’60s Ligeti – but 30 years sooner! Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. It is not obvious whether this embarrassment was musical or political, but in Shostakovich’s case, the two were normally connected. Even removing the choral finale, which sounds wholly uninspired, we’re still left with a piece that lacks much motivation. COMPOSED: Shostakovich composed his Violin Concerto No. Initially described by the composer as a symphonic poem, the piece was eventually entitled ‘Symphonic Dedication – To October’. However, his Piano Concerto No.2 is a gloriously free, wistful creation – particularly in the famous second movement, which guarantees the whole work’s enduring popularity. Symphony No. Mozart’s expressive 29th symphony was penned by the 18-year-old wunderkind after his visit to Vienna. Shostakovich had given them their forced happy ending, a secret testament to the horrors of life under Stalin. Whatever the answers to those questions are, it is hard to misunderstand the composer’s feelings at the end of the piece. His friend and dedicatee of the First Symphony, Mikhail Kvadri, had recently been arrested and shot for ‘counterrevolutionary activity’; the dedication was officially removed from the score. Born in 1906, Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was a prodigious child as both pianist and composer. It’s chamber-like for a long stretch, but the chaos increases as the rest of the ensemble joins. But we’ll excuse Shostakovich this symphonic misstep. But ten years on from the Revolution, ‘October’ had come to mean much more than the specific events of 1917. 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