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Thread: Shostakovich symphonies

  1. #31
    Senior Member senza sordino's Avatar
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    I thoroughly enjoy listening to Shostakovich's symphonies. My favourites in no particular order of preference are probably 1, 4, 5, 9, 10 & 15. I really like the quirky ninth. The first is a terrific opener. I've played in orchestra the fifth, the ending is quite exciting with everyone playing their hearts out.

    And my views of the seventh? I like it, except for the tedious opening movement. But I did hear my local orchestra play it, and live it was rather intense.

    I have a confession to make, I can't remember nor distinguish between the sixth, eleventh, twelfth or thirteenth. I should make the effort to do so.

  2. #32
    Senior Member MacLeod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Triplets View Post
    There is a version of ‘The Battleship Potemkin’ available that uses substantial parts of the 11th as it’s soundtrack. Works perfectly
    I'm not sure that this proves anything. Substantial quantities of classical music are used for all sorts of films and "work perfectly".
    "I left TC for a hiatus, but since no-one noticed my absence, I came back again."

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Pickett View Post
    Beyond Nos. 2&3, which are ephemeral communist propagandist claptrap, and No.12 which is also rubbish, ....I myself find No.14 hard to enjoy, it's debatable if it's a symphony or not, and for me he wrote better song cycles. It's relentlessly depressing to be honest.
    #3 is rather interesting up until the party-apparatchik choral bs....2 is no place....and 12 is unfocused, he lost the train of thought??
    I agree about 14 - it is very good [I think], but I have to take it in small doses...really quite depressing...

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  5. #34
    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    No. 8 the most from start to finish.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    On the radio just finished: The Los Angeles PO with Gustavo Dudamel in a program including Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5. The players did quite well, and it's kind of a treat since Dudamel seems to visit Shostakovich seldom. But what a symphony that is!

    And after the symphony broadcast, a surprise: Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 11, played by the Borodin Quartet. Who says radio is dead?
    Last edited by KenOC; May-28-2018 at 04:46.


  7. #36
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    I also find the 14th symphony very depressing and bleak, one more reason why I don't like it.

  8. #37
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    With possible exceptions of 2 and 3, each of the Shostakovich symphonies is a gem well worth exploring numerous times. This is not "happy music" or even "optimistic music", certainly, but it is "truthful music" and speaks volumes about the human condition in a particular time and particular place which, if we heed the warnings, will prevent this music from becoming a universal statement. Which, ironically, indeed makes it a universal statement.

    The 5th remains a shattering masterpiece, I contend, and one of the strongest symphonies in the history of the form. As absolute music it is astounding; as program music it raises itself to an even higher level.

    And so much of Shostakovich's music shares in these sentiments. I cherish both the 1st and 9th for their brevity and imaginative scope. There is really nothing like either, except perhaps for each other. And the 8th and 10th, works seemingly cut from the same cloth but uniquely their own nonetheless, never leave me cold, though they do drain me emotionally and leave me disturbed and angry.

    I remain a fan of the dark vocal symphonies, the 13th and 14th, so poignant in their pessimistic visions. Yet, this is song, one of the greatest achievements of mankind, and in some sense song is always hopeful, and so are these symphonies. We listen to them in lamentation yet hope that the oppression they speak of will find an end someday amongst us humans.

    From my perspective, symphonies 7 and 11 share a tonal hue that is cinematic in presentation. The repetitive march of the 7th and the "Eternal Memory" movement of the 11th remain favorite orchestral works which I will often play as separate entities from their full symphonic settings. Both movements (and these symphonies as a whole) are Shostakovich the populist at his grandest.

    Symphonies 4 and 12 share a space, too, to my ears. These are enigmatic works, both highly modernistic and unique in Shosty's oeuvre. These two elude my memorization of their lines in ways that defy my understanding. I know so much of Shostakovich's symphonic music by heart that I can hum along anticipating each coming moment in symphonies 1, 5, 8, 9, and 10, for examples. Yet I approach 4 and 12 always with fresh ears, as if hearing them for the first time. A strange phenomenon, to me.

    The most puzzling of all the symphonies, and a towering masterpiece as well, is the strange and enigmatic final symphony, number 15. I have heard the work many times, but always with wonderment about what it all means. Is this Shostakovich in full retreat, or is it an outlook of an optimistic future, one where human repression and oppression are ended and a new dawn strikes the world?

    I always lament that Shostakovich did not live to see the end of the Soviet Union, and though Russia today is still not the land of democratic openness and full societal freedom, it has come a long way from the era catalogued by Shostakovich's music, especially the symphonies. I have long contended that these 15 music works speak better than anything else about the history of the Soviet Union; that we can experience Communist oppression via this oeuvre, emotionally and feeling-wise, in a way no history book can present.

    I cherish the fifteen string quartets in much the same way. I hear them as private statements, and hear the symphonies are public statements from the composer. I fantasize that someday I will parallel the symphonies and quartets in an extended (marathon) listening session, the public symphony number one followed by a hearing of the private quartet number one, and so on through to the fifteenth work. I've not yet done this task, though I think of starting it often. Still, I wonder if I am physically and emotionally fit enough to withstand such an assault. There are few composers whose music is as powerful as that of Dimitri Shostakovich.

    Shostakovich's music (the quartets, the symphonies, the concerti, the piano variations, the incidental music) is in frequent rotation in my listening sessions, and shall remain so. These artistic masterworks deserve our strong attentions so that we may learn from them the costs of human oppression. And in these contemporary times the symphonies remain powerful contemporary statements, though we should hope, and I believe Shostakovich himself did, that these works would be best relegated to a time passed, to become "period pieces" for reminding us rather than be living examples of what is worst about the human condition.
    Last edited by SONNET CLV; May-28-2018 at 06:59.

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  10. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by SONNET CLV View Post
    The 5th remains a shattering masterpiece, I contend, and one of the strongest symphonies in the history of the form. As absolute music it is astounding; as program music it raises itself to an even higher level.
    I very much agree.

  11. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by SONNET CLV View Post
    I always lament that Shostakovich did not live to see the end of the Soviet Union, and though Russia today is still not the land of democratic openness and full societal freedom, it has come a long way from the era catalogued by Shostakovich's music, especially the symphonies. I have long contended that these 15 music works speak better than anything else about the history of the Soviet Union; that we can experience Communist oppression via this oeuvre, emotionally and feeling-wise, in a way no history book can present.

    These artistic masterworks deserve our strong attentions so that we may learn from them the costs of human oppression. And in these contemporary times the symphonies remain powerful contemporary statements,
    I disagree, but I guess such a reading is the only way to make Shostakovich's music palatable (meaning: it's so boring but how much he suffered), you can find depressed or scared to live people all over the world, what kind of music would have produced a guy like Shostakovich in the US during McCarthy's time? Shostakovich's music can say much about his character maybe, but no more than that.
    BTW when I want history a read a book, once I tried to use the Eroica to understand Napoleon, it didn't work

  12. #40
    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    I’m very hesitant to tie Shostakovich’s music to his political experience in the Soviet Union. After all, our ideas of what his life was like are based mostly on those garish comic books we carry around in our heads. He definitely had two periods where he had good reason to be worried, but otherwise he served in the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR from 1947 to 1962 and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union from 1962 until his death. And he was invited to join the Party (considered an honor) in 1960 and he accepted. You will search in vain for any negative comment he made about the Party or his nation aside from informal comments to friends, and I’m sure there were plenty of those from just about everybody (as there are, today, in my own country).

    Better to take his music on its own account.


  13. #41
    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    It's hard to believe the warmed-over accounts of Shostakovich's life under Stalin being posted on this forum. Some of you just have no idea, and when you read some of the quotes attributed to him, you think every word is a lie. You can hear the bitterness and sarcasm in some of his music. You might well consider the counter political forces in the Soviet Union that would seek to discredit him rather than own up to the horrors of what life under Stalin was actually like. Sheesh. I suppose some of you who can't believe a word of what the composer was saying would have been quite happy to trade places with him as he genuinely feared for his life and the life of his friends. And of course, some of you would still like to believe that his Leningrad Symphony had nothing to do with the War. Jesus. You know why? Probably because you don't care for the Symphony.

    [quote] Forced to live for most of his life under a totalitarian regime – one moment in favor with Soviet leaders, then just as quickly out of it again – for much of his career Shostakovich was judged by political rather than musical criteria. He once described life under Stalin's regime as “unbelievably mean and hard. Every day brought more bad news and I felt so much pain. I was so lonely and afraid.” Denounced in 1936 as “an enemy of the people”, friends he had once considered loyal supporters began crossing the street to avoid him. To know him was dangerous; to associate with him, potentially fatal. He risked execution or deportation to the Gulag yet played the system just carefully enough to survive, publishing music that earned him praise for "not having given in to the seductive temptations of his previous 'erroneous' ways”; at least, that is, until his second denunciation for “formalism” and “western influences” in 1948, after which most of his music was banned.

    Without party guidance I would have displayed more brilliance, used more sarcasm – Dmitri Shostakovich

    Following Stalin’s death in 1953 in you can almost feel, in his music, the gigantic breath of relief, as he could start to publish not just the “desk drawer” works he’d kept under wraps for years, including the Fourth Symphony, but also works in which he could openly give musical expression to the brutalities he and his contemporaries had endured under Stalin’s purges. “Without party guidance,” he later said, “I would have displayed more brilliance, used more sarcasm, I could have revealed my ideas openly instead of having to resort to camouflage." [unquote]

    http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/201...-almost-purged

    The history of his Symphony No. 4. Nope... no political interference or problems here that he might possibly have privately objected to—

    [quote] Dmitri Shostakovich composed his Symphony No. 4 in C minor, Opus 43, between September 1935 and May 1936, after abandoning some preliminary sketch material. In January 1936, halfway through this period, Pravda—under direct orders from Joseph Stalin[1]—published an editorial "Muddle Instead of Music" that denounced the composer and targeted his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Despite this attack, and despite the oppressive political climate of the time, Shostakovich completed the symphony and planned its premiere for December 1936 in Leningrad. After rehearsals began, the orchestra's management canceled the performance, offering a statement that Shostakovich had withdrawn the work. He may have agreed to withdraw it to relieve orchestra officials of responsibility. The symphony was premiered on 30 December 1961 by the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra led by Kirill Kondrashin.[unquote]

    It's always a tribute to the composer when Americans try to rewrite Russian history from a safe and sanitized point of view because they just don't know who to believe when reading about him, despite living almost his entire life under the microscope of political criticism and occasional rewards. During the Great Purge or the Great Terror which occurred from 1936 to 1938. It was estimated that at least 600,000 people died at the hands of the Stalin-led Soviet government.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; May-28-2018 at 09:54.
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  15. #42
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    .............................................
    Last edited by janxharris; May-28-2018 at 09:13.

  16. #43
    Senior Member MacLeod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larkenfield View Post
    Without party guidance I would have displayed more brilliance, used more sarcasm – Dmitri Shostakovich
    But did he say this? The problem with the "Shostakovich Wars" is that we are expected to challenge everything he said and was said about him.

    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=...20wars&f=false
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  18. #44
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    I haven't heard 2,3,11,12,13,14 yet.

    I do love 5 and 10.

  19. #45
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MusicSybarite View Post
    I also find the 14th symphony very depressing and bleak, one more reason why I don't like it.
    It can be very bleak and fairly acerbic. But there is another, perhaps more musical view of it, in the Currentzis recording. I had always "liked" the piece but I found this a revelation.

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