Showcase March-April 2014 - page 19

mar 13, 14, 15
Program Notes
hostakovich and other Russian composers
were pilloried at the infamous 1948 Congress
of the Union of Soviet Composers, a showcase
inquisition put on by a government intent on
keeping its artists on a short leash. Shostakovich was
dismissed from his teaching positions and forced to
read a humiliating confession. Then, as he supported
his family by writing film scores and patriotic music, he
privately composed the music
wanted to write and
kept it back, waiting for a more liberal atmosphere. Soon
after Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953, he set to work on
his Tenth Symphony, which was completed that October
and premiered by Yevgeny Mravinsky and the Leningrad
Philharmonic that December 17.
This imposing work, dark and somber, touched off a
firestorm in Russia, where it was regarded as a challenge
to Soviet control of Russian artists. A conference was
called in Moscow in the spring of 1954 to try to come
to terms with music that was so politically incorrect.
After three days of debate, the conference came to a
compromise approval of this music, declaring—with
considerable mental gymnastics—that the Shostakovich
Tenth represented “an optimistic tragedy.”
The music begins quietly and ominously, with
rising and falling patterns of three notes. More animated
material follows: a wistful tune for solo clarinet and a
dark waltz for solo flute. Simple figures explode violently
across the span of this movement, which rises to a series
of craggy climaxes. After so much mighty struggle, the
movement vanishes on the most delicate strands of
sound: solo piccolo, barely audible timpani rolls and
widely spaced pizzicato strokes.
The second movement, brief and brutal, rips to life
Dmitri Shostakovich
September 25, 1906, St. Petersburg
August 9, 1975, Moscow
Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Opus 93
with frenzied energy and does not stop until it vanishes
on a whirlwind. Listeners will detect the rising pattern of
three notes that opened the first movement, but here they
are spit out like bursts of machine-gun fire. Some view
this movement as a musical portrait of Stalin, but the
composer’s son Maxim has specifically denied this.
After the fury of the second movement, the
third begins almost whimsically. The violins’ opening
gesture repeats the three-note phrase that underpins
so much of this symphony, and we move to what is
distinctive about this movement: one of the earliest
appearances of Shostakovich’s musical signature in his
works. High woodwinds toot out the four-note motto
D/E-flat/C/B. In German notation, E-flat is S and B is
H, and the resulting motto spells DSCH, the composer’s
initials in their German spelling: Dmitri SCHostakovich.
This musical calling card would appear in many
subsequent Shostakovich works, at times seeming to
be an assertion of Shostakovich’s existence and his
independence. Also notable is this movement’s horn call,
ringing out 12 times across its span. In this enigmatic
movement, one senses a private drama being played out.
The music slides into silence with lonely woodwinds
chirping out the DSCH motto one final time.
andante – allegro.
The finale opening returns to the mood
of the very beginning, with somber low strings beneath
lonely woodwind cries. When our sensibilities are
thoroughly darkened, Shostakovich suddenly shifts gears.
Solo clarinet offers a taut call to order, and the violins
launch into an
that pushes the symphony to an
almost too conventional happy ending.
What are we to make of this conclusion, apparently
shaped by the requisite high spirits of Socialist Realism?
It has unsettled many listeners, who feel it a violation
of the powerful music that preceded it. The source
of the power of this work continues to elude our
understanding, even as we are swept up in its
somber strength.
2 flutes, piccolo (1 flute also doubling
piccolo), 3 oboes (1 doubling English horn), 3 clarinets
(1 doubling E-flat clarinet), 3 bassoons (1 doubling
contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba,
timpani, bass drum, cymbals, military drum, snare drum, tam-tam,
triangle, xylophone and strings
Program notes by
Eric Bromberger
1...,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18 20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,...48
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