Tag Archives: Dmitri Shostakovich

Seeking Shostakovich: Symphony No. 15

Christopher Gibbs, in his program note on the symphony, wrote:

The appearances of the Tell Overture in the first movement (Allegretto) are so striking that one inevitably asks why Shostakovich inserted such a well-known piece. The composer himself divulged little, except that the first movement “describes childhood— just a toyshop, with a cloudless sky above.” Indeed, there is a largely playful tone to the movement, although the conductor Kurt Sanderling recalls sitting with the composer at the Berlin premiere and remarking that, unlike most of the audience, he found the first movement tragic. He reports Shostakovich replied, “You are not wrong. It is tragic, marionette-like: We are all marionettes.” [cite] Continue reading

Innisfree Garden, July 21

03IMG_0255_edited-1We raced out the door, so as to arrive as soon as Innisfree Garden opened, in hopes of beating the worst of the heat. We had the benefit of a good breeze and plenty of shady spots, including our favorite place to sit and watch for jumping fish. We didn’t see many fish, but dragonflies were out in force. Continue reading

Seeking Shostakovich: Revisiting the Fourth Symphony

Shostakovich after the première of the Fourth Symphony at the Moscow Conservatory

Shostakovich after the 1961 première of the Fourth Symphony at the Moscow Conservatory

This past week I spent a good bit of time with Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4 in C minor, Opus 43 (1935-36). For me, this wild ride of a symphony holds special appeal, so it’s been a pleasure to come back to it. In the process, I collected and augmented material I used when the symphony was first discussed in these pages. That, along with two of the myriad of open questions I have about the symphony, form the raison d’être for this post. Continue reading

Summoning the Sun with Britten’s Spring Symphony

Hymn to the Sun. engraving by William Miller 1872

Hymn to the Sun. engraving by William Miller 1872

Each day now, as I look out over the hills, I mark the snow’s receding and watch as deer forage in brown patches that emerge. As I look, I’m gauging when the local rail trail might be free of snow so I can jog and walk outside, rather than eyeing my treadmill balefully (or perhaps the treadmill is balefully eyeing me). Every now and then, but not as often as I should, I get on it, with considerable empathy for the hamster on her wheel. Continue reading

Seeking Shostakovich . . . in the Verses of Michelangelo

The Taddei Tondo by Michelangelo

The Taddei Tondo by Michelangelo

Some kind of spring has broken in my brain. I have not written a note since the Fifteenth Symphony. That is a terrible state of affairs for me.

—Dmitri Shostakovich,
Letter to Isaak Glikman,
January 16, 1973
[Glikman 188]

In the summer of 1974, not long after claiming he hadn’t “a single musical thought in his head,” Dmitri Shostakovich wrote to Isaak Glikman, “I have been composing quite a lot recently.” [Story of a Friendship: The Letters of Dmitry Shostakovich to Isaak Glikman, 1941–1975 323, no. 56 and 196]  In 1971, Shostakovich had completed Symphony No. 15, his last. At the time, his final string quartets, the 14th (1973) and 15th (1974), and his last work, the Sonata for Viola and Piano (1975, the year he died), were yet to come, as were three works for voice, including the Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti, first written for bass and piano (op. 145, 1974) and subsequently orchestrated (op. 145a, 1975). Continue reading