Friday, 25 February 2011

Comrade's classical connection

Went to a classical concert tonight. as is our wont occasionally. Not one of the big events - no huge orchestra, no celebrated piece of music - but we were hugely affected by one of the pieces played. While the Prokofiev was enjoyable, the piece that made the night was a little-known Shostakovich work (well it was little-known by me!). 
The SCO, conducted (inspired?) by Andrew Manze, played Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet in its Chamber Symphony no 1 form. (it was transcribed by one of his former pupils with Shostakovich’s approval). Written originally in 1960 after a visit to Dresden - still being reconstructed after the Allied firebombing it is a hugely affecting work. 
From the opening emotional phrases, to the sombre double slow movements that close the work it is a piece that has a massive resonance. For a composer who lived through the horrors of the Leningrad siege, and reacted to it with the strength of the 7th Symphony, this is, if anything, more affecting.
Quite clearly, the impact of the destruction of Dresden chimed deeply with Shostakovich, and this music - written in three days - brings together three major stands that epitomise his genius. Firstly, and most importantly, his humanity and capability to empathise with human suffering, whether being experienced by comrades or by ‘enemies’. Secondly, his ability to transcend the supposed restriction of the socialist commonweal of the Soviet Union (something that has been always clear to those prepared to listen). But thirdly, and mostly his ability to use music to move your emotions so that you understand both his reaction, and why that is important for you (and others). Surely, the definition of genius.
The use of the short Antonio Lotte piece (also composed in Dresden 200 years earlier) to introduce the Shostakovich was also inspired. Congratulations to both the SCO and to Andrew Manze, but most of all to Dmitri Shostakovich, for an exceptional night.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing piece cde. I have played the quartet verion which is almost too emotional to perform. The relationship between Shostakovich and Stalin is interesting and complex. One thing that is clear is the power of music and other art forms in communicating the emotions of politics. It is a huge interest of mine. I wasintroduced to the 5th symphony aka " A Soviet artist's reply to justified criticism" as a teenage violinist and it was a life changing experience both musically and politically. There is still so much to learn and understand. Shotakovich was indeed a genius as you say. If I thought that for one moment that Cameron understood the arts I would suspect that he was cutting funding due to his fear of the power to influence and expand people's understanding of the world and how they respond to events. Sadly I think that the cuts to the arts are a simple mechanism to allow capitalism in the form of private philanthropy to take ownership of arts institutions for their own ends and to restict access.
    I could ramble on this subject for ages. So glad that you enjoyed the music that is the main point in the end.