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View Poll Results: How Well Do You Rate The Symphonies Of Shostakovich?

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  • One of the very finest of the entire symphonic repertoire

    60 37.74%
  • One of the finest of the 20th century but not necessarily of the entire symphonie repertoire

    56 35.22%
  • Interesting but not enough to engage me on "many" repeated listening

    31 19.50%
  • Hack work

    6 3.77%
  • Utter crap

    7 4.40%
  • I have not listened to any or enough to form an opinion

    10 6.29%
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Thread: How Well Do You Rate The Symphonies Of Shostakovich?

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    J. S. Bach?
    Yes. Bach, after he had died, was almost completely forgotten/discarded/ignored for about three generations until Mendelssohn came along and put him back on the map.

  2. #17
    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andreas View Post
    Yes. Bach, after he had died, was almost completely forgotten/discarded/ignored for about three generations until Mendelssohn came along and put him back on the map.
    It just depends on who you ask. Bach seems to have lived on during that time when it comes to key figures in music. Just look at his affect on keyboard music. Beethoven called the WTC his "bible" of keyboard music. Of course he was mostly forgotten, but he certainly wasn't forgotten locally, or amongst composers who were into the kapellmeisters of the area. His son succeeded the post of a figure as renowned at the time as Telemann (who published quite a lot during his life), so I'm sure JS Bach wasn't as obscure as people tend to suggest.

    A lot of people surely knew about the great organist, contrapuntist, and improviser, that was JS Bach, and a good deal of German composers talked about his WTC. Sadly, I don't think anyone knew just how prolific he was. They probably knew he composed a bunch of cantatas (given his posts), but just couldn't look at the scores or hear a performance of them. I wonder often what Beethoven would have thought, if he had seen just how marvelous was this figure that he revered. If the WTC was his keyboard "bible", what would he have thought of the massive output that is Bach? I personally doubt he would have said that Mozart's Mass in C minor was the best. IMO, he would have preferred Bach's Mass in B. Actually, I'm pretty sure he would have ranted and raved about Bach's orchestral music, especially his sacred music.

    Digressing even further from the topic of the thread, which I'm sorry for doing today, I wonder if Beethoven wanted to write more sacred music. He was pretty fond of sacred music.
    Last edited by Lukecash12; Oct-18-2012 at 10:05.
    "Your mathematics are correct, but your physics are abominable..." Einstein

  3. #18
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    Shostakovich's symphonic cycle is just too uneven to stand as one of the finest in symphonic literature - even in the 20th century. There are many more even cycles and I would point people to the following composers who wrote around the same number of symphonies as Shostakovich:

    Kalevi Aho
    Kurt Atterberg
    Vagn Holmboe
    Allan Pettersson
    William Schuman
    Robert Simpson
    Eduard Tubin

    To my ears, all of these composers' cycles are of a more consistently high standard than Shostakovich. At his very best (eg in Nos 1, 4, 8, 10 and 13) Shostakovich is a force to be reckoned with, but too many of his symphonic works fall below these standards (to a greater or lesser extent).
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  4. #19
    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delicious Manager View Post
    Shostakovich's symphonic cycle is just too uneven to stand as one of the finest in symphonic literature - even in the 20th century. There are many more even cycles and I would point people to the following composers who wrote around the same number of symphonies as Shostakovich:

    Kalevi Aho
    Kurt Atterberg
    Vagn Holmboe
    Allan Pettersson
    William Schuman
    Robert Simpson
    Eduard Tubin

    To my ears, all of these composers' cycles are of a more consistently high standard than Shostakovich. At his very best (eg in Nos 1, 4, 8, 10 and 13) Shostakovich is a force to be reckoned with, but too many of his symphonic works fall below these standards (to a greater or lesser extent).
    I have found your views interesting for a while now, so I wonder why you think Shostakovich falls short with some of his symphonies. How did they not deliver?

    Great references, by the way. You seem to have gotten around the 20th century symphonies. Strong candidates there.
    "Your mathematics are correct, but your physics are abominable..." Einstein

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lukecash12 View Post
    I have found your views interesting for a while now, so I wonder why you think Shostakovich falls short with some of his symphonies. How did they not deliver?

    Great references, by the way. You seem to have gotten around the 20th century symphonies. Strong candidates there.
    A little precis of my views:

    No 1: A truly accomplished student work, although I don't hear much 'real' Shostakovich in it compared to some other contemporaneous works.
    No 2: An experiment; some fascinating sounds and ideas, but not a symphony in any real sense of the word and the choral section is ghastly.
    No 3: Uneven in its ideas even within itself, episodic, weird, another horrible choral final section.
    No 4: A flawed masterpiece, but a great work.
    No 5: Given the circumstances in which it was composed, it's quite staggering this symphony is as good as it is. I don't, however, put it among the very best of Shostakovich's works.
    No 6: I have a soft spot for this work, but its weird and lopsided nature (both structurally and musically) discounts it from my list of Shostakovich's best.
    No 7: Well, it served its purpose, but it's little more than a propaganda work. The inner two movements have some nice touches.
    No 8: Taught, well balanced and emotionally draining, I find this one of the most satisfying of DSCH's works.
    No 9: This should almost be in the top list - it's Shostakovich's 'Classical' Symphony in a way. Beautifully structured and superbly written - and tantalisingly decadent. Listen to Kondrashin's old 1964 recording to hear this work to best effect.
    No 10: One of Shostakovich's best works of all. Nuff said.
    No 11: Film music in quasi-symphonic form. I don't think this symphony is as good as its recent popularity might suggest.
    No 12: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! There are those who believe Shostakovich INTENDED this to be a banal, blowsy and bombastic piece of empty musical rhetoric to undermine the thematic historical content.
    No 13: Another gripping and emotionally challenging work. It is perfectly structured and I return to it often.
    No 14: I think this is a great work too - but it's not really a 'symphony', is it? That's the only reason it wasn't in my original list (although I hesitated!), but it IS among Shostakovich's finest creations.
    No 15: Strange, enigmatic, structurally flawed, but oddly compelling. Some would put this among his greatest works. I'm torn.

    If you're interested, I include the following as among Shostkovich's finest compositions:

    Cello Concertos 1 & 2
    The Execution of Stepan Razin (the best Shostakovich work that's never performed)
    From Jewish Folk Poetry
    Hamlet (1964 film score)
    Suite on Verses by Michelangelo Buanarroti
    The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
    Piano Trio No 2
    Preludes and Fugues, Op 87
    String Quartets 3, 5, 8, 10, 13
    Violin Concertos 1 & 2
    Last edited by Delicious Manager; Oct-18-2012 at 13:07.
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  6. #21
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    Shostakovich' s music is one of the greatest not only in the 20th century but in the whole western Classical Music. His Symphonies, despite whatever individual flaws one may wish to trace, stand as unique masterpieces as compositions of great form, memorable melodies, incredibly interesting and creative orchestration and of human character that can affect audiences all over the world. There is no other composer who has been in 20th century so influential and popular, at the same time, among musicians and audiences! He is a modern Classic!
    Composers which had been mentioned, like Aho, Attenberg, Holmboe...Tubin might be interesting and important figures in their region, but their influence, significance and appeal is extremely limited in the rest of the globe, despite the very good services from some very fine labels such as BIS, Dacapo, Ondine, etc.
    Each Shostakovich' s Symphony is a sort of small or big "Odyssey" to a familiar territory of our life, interest, emotions and musicality. Even the flaws of them work perfectly fine within the general context and frame of the work in question. We should not neglect that there is no "perfect" Symphony as such. Beethoven struggled with almost everything: melodies, rhythms, orchestration, but he was a unique master of the form. Thanks to the form of his Symphonies, anything seems - and it is actually - right. Every note follows the other in perfection, even if the individual features are not perfect.
    One has to listen to Shostakovich' s Symphonies several times paying attention to the form and the multiple texture of them.

    Principe
    Last edited by principe; Oct-18-2012 at 17:03.
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  7. #22
    Senior Member Vaneyes's Avatar
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    I weep uncontrollably due to lack of Shosty love on this thread. But I'll pick myself up, and brush myself off. 'Tis a new dawn.

  8. #23
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    Yes, the too much angsty thing. I can listen to about one movement of a string quartet or chamber symphony, derived from those. Listening to 3 or 4 parts would have me thinking about slitting my wrists.

    I like the piano concertos. Kind of Stravinskian.

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vaneyes View Post
    I weep uncontrollably due to lack of Shosty love on this thread. But I'll pick myself up, and brush myself off. 'Tis a new dawn.
    Don't despair! I'm listening to this one in your honor. And enjoying it quite a bit in spite of my earlier comments.

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  10. #25
    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delicious Manager View Post
    If you're interested, I include the following as among Shostkovich's finest compositions:
    A great list, but I think you overlooked the Quintet and the Cello Sonata!

    BTW if you're "torn" about the 15th Symphony, don't be. It's one of his finest works. Trust me.
    Last edited by KenOC; Oct-18-2012 at 19:52.

  11. #26
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    The Execution of Stepan Razin (the best Shostakovich work that's never performed)
    Absolutely 100% agree with you on this one; it is a superb work.

    No 12: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! There are those who believe Shostakovich INTENDED this to be a banal, blowsy and bombastic piece of empty musical rhetoric to undermine the thematic historical content.
    However, I can't agree with what you say here; it is easy to dismiss no.12 as a banal piece, but don't be so quick to arrive at this conclusion. Given how skilled Shostakovich was even in the flawed symphonies, why would you be so quick to think that he unintentionally wrote a piece of rubbish? (Not that I regard it as rubbish)
    There will come a time soon when Youtube won't let us do this...

  12. #27
    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delicious Manager View Post
    Shostakovich's symphonic cycle is just too uneven to stand as one of the finest in symphonic literature - even in the 20th century.
    An interesting view. What if only his eight "best" symphonies were known? Then, more people might agree that he was "the greatest symphonist of the century." Now, suppose the other seven less-great symphonies were discovered. Would he then be viewed as a lesser composer?

    BTW my impression is that most would agree his output was uneven, but there would be a lot of disagreement over which were strong and which were weak.
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  13. #28
    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StlukesguildOhio View Post
    I quite like a good many of Shostakovitch' symphonies... although I probably prefer his cello concerto, the preludes and fugues (HC... have you heard that work? Quite intriguing for the Baroque lover... clearly inspired by Bach's WTC) and even some of the quartets more. I don't honestly find myself as passionate about Shosty's symphonies as I am about symphonies of Mahler, Schubert, Beethoven, etc... but then I could say the same of most Russian symphonies. I'm honestly just not as fluent with regard to Shostakovitch as I am with some others... but he is slowly growing on me... and I would surely place him easily among the greatest of the 20th century.
    I would place Shostakovich amongst the top half dozen or so 20th century composers, no doubt. I find his symphonies overall quite uneven in quality and a few that I have my suspicion on whether these are symphonies or not, especially the cantata-like #13 for example. Perhaps that might be rather harsh considering the historical context during which many of these were composed.

    I find his concertos more engaging, perhaps because these are more "defined" for "ultra-conservative" wig wearing folks like me.
    All composers are equal but some are more equal than others.

  14. #29
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    For quite a few scholars, musicians and people in the Classical Music business, Shostakovich tends to be considered as the finest composer of the past century.
    In every genre he composed, everything has at least great musical value and interest. His Piano Music is extraordinary and beautiful, beloved and performed by great pianists. His Chamber Music is unique and utterly great. Only the String Quartets can constitute the milestone of the genre in 20th century (along with the only 6 by Bartok). His Concertos are so beautiful, intriguing, creative and, for works of 20th century, very popular. As for his Symphonies, with all the problems of getting familiar with them, they are by far the most influential, popular and most frequently played from the past century. Only the 15th, I have seen it, in almost five continents, during the last few years.
    My surprise was when I found out how popular he is in Asia. Asians adore his music, which is performed on every occasion it can be.

    Principe
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  15. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by StlukesguildOhio View Post
    I quite like a good many of Shostakovitch' symphonies... although I probably prefer his cello concerto, the preludes and fugues (HC... have you heard that work? Quite intriguing for the Baroque lover... clearly inspired by Bach's WTC) and even some of the quartets more. I don't honestly find myself as passionate about Shosty's symphonies as I am about symphonies of Mahler, Schubert, Beethoven, etc... but then I could say the same of most Russian symphonies. I'm honestly just not as fluent with regard to Shostakovitch as I am with some others... but he is slowly growing on me... and I would surely place him easily among the greatest of the 20th century.
    I agree I find his other work superior to his symphonies but then I lean toward the chamber side of music and away from the full symphony generally.

    I read he was a queer little chap very anxious/neurotic I don't know if that's true but I feel it's reflected in his music. As much as I like Shostakovitch and I like his work I find it hard to connect to it emotionally at least in anyway that's positive way.

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