One Fifth and One Sixth

Prokofiev Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, Op. 100 (1944)

For more on the Fifth Symphony, listen to David Nice on BBC3 here.

Shostakovich Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 54 (1939)

Isaak Glikman said of responses to the Sixth Symphony:

Naturally, I hid from the composer the inevitable musicians’ talk. With rare exceptions, it drove me to despair. Some musicians held that the conceited young composer, having dared to break with the tradition of the symphonic cycle, had produced a formless piece in three movements. Others maliciously implied that Shostakovich had locked himself away in an ivory tower, and no longer knew what was going on around him; the result was that the opening Largo was so dull and inert as to bring on a stupefied torpor. And a third group just laughed goodheartedly, saying that the finale was nothing more than a depiction of a football match with its successes and reversals of fortune. [Elizabeth Wilson, Shostakovich, A Life Remembered, Second Edition, p. 164]

Listen to Paavo Järvi talk about the Sixth Symphony at about 13:40 here.

For more on the Sixth Symphony, click here.

With thanks to David Nice for identifying these performances and for the continued illuminating commentary in his Russian Music course.

The images used in the post may be found here and here.

4 thoughts on “One Fifth and One Sixth

  1. David Nice

    I love both those performances – the best live of both works I’ve ever experienced. Of course to have heard Mravinsky and the Leningrad Philharmonic in action would have been something else, but I don’t think either of these conductors misses the depths. As always, the responses you email me after the classes are incredibly perceptive (which probably only means I agree with them, but you hit on things I hadn’t formulated…)

    1. David Nice

      PS – showing off, perhaps, but I wondered what the music was on the stamp, and its the very opening of the complete Romeo and Juliet ballet. The Shostakovich is not what he would wish to be remembered by, perhaps – the climax of the first movement of the Seventh, ‘Leningrad’ Symphony.

    2. Susan Scheid Post author

      David: The performances are marvelous. While probably not the most sensible programming, I listened to them back to back yesterday, and couldn’t imagine having a better musical experience other than hearing them live. So thank you, again and again, for all the gifts of music you are providing us!

      1. Susan Scheid Post author

        David: you are NOT showing off, just offering the fruits of your knowledge–without which I certainly wouldn’t have know what the bits of score were. Yes, it is too bad the stamp designers chose the 7th, but then again, the historical meaning to those who lived through those times is deeply felt, so it’s perhaps understandable.

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