What is the first thought the name Shostakovich evokes for you? Pravda, the Communist party newspaper, once published an article accusing Shostakovich of creating a "bedlam of noise," and indeed, he often jars us with dissonant harmonies and unfamiliar melodic techniques. Actually, it is a miracle that we have so much music from him. Growing up in the Soviet Union, where his music was greatly admired by the public yet severely attacked by the Stalinist press, he spent much of his life in constant fear of being rounded up, severed from his family, and sent to the Gulag. He was even subject to arrest once, but only escaped it because the man assigned to arrest him was himself arrested!
In this class, we will listen to excerpts from Shostakovich symphonies which demonstrate his determination to convey his own artistic idiom and his personal beliefs, while bending to the constraints of the terrifying political climate in which he composed. A triumphant march: is it really triumphant, or might it be sarcastic and weary, given where it is placed in the symphony? A thrilling finale: is it racing with anticipation, or with absolute dread of what is to come next? The emotional power of Shostakovich’s music can be overwhelming, and its capacity to shake us, move us, and to evoke such intense feelings is what sets him apart from so many others.
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