Tag Archives: Seeking Shostakovich

Going Back to the Bolsheviks

Mikhail Larionov, Portrait of Sergei Prokofiev (1921)

The 1920s in the Soviet Union, as elsewhere, were roaring with invention. Sergei Prokofiev, after several years abroad, returned to Russia in 1927. On the day of his departure, January 13, he wrote in his diary: Continue reading

A Trio of String Octets

The 18-year-old Shostakovich, photographed June 28, 1925, two days before he completed his Symphony No. 1.

Dmitri Shostakovich composed his Prelude and Scherzo for String Octet, Op. 11 (1925) when he was only eighteen, the same year in which he composed his Symphony No. 1.

Shostakovich originally composed the prelude in December 1924 as an elegy to the poet (and his close personal friend) Volodya Kurchavov; the scherzo was added seven months later. [cite] Continue reading

Seeking Shostakovich: I Am Not Me, The Nose Is Not Mine

In the teeming collage of text that forms a backdrop for the Metropolitan Opera’s 2010 production of The Nose are the words “spine,” smashed,” and “beautiful, pitiful age.” While in the thrall of the opera’s swirl of sound and image, I held tight to those words in hope of discovering where they came from and what they meant. Continue reading

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