Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 15

"Roll up, roll up for a circus of musical meaning, a surreal carnival where nothing is quite as it seems, where strange musical machines and even a glittering musical toyshop become an existential journey into the beyond. Welcome to the world of Dmitri Shostakovich's 15th, and final, symphony. Composed in 1971 in just a few weeks, the 15th Symphony belongs to the period of Shostakovich's darkest music. ... Every bar of the piece demands a variation on the same simple but utterly profound question: what does it all mean? What is that chirruping little tune at the start of the symphony about? Why does Shostakovich quote from Rossini's William Tell in the first movement, from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde and Ring cycle in its last movement? Why does the whole thing end with a coda that on the surface could be a memory of childish things, but is far more likely a musical transliteration of the hum and clatter of hospital machines ... ? And why, as Shostakovich surely knew this would be his last symphony when he was writing it, does the piece scrupulously avoid any trace of the bombast and boisterousness of his earlier symphonies?" (Tom Service, "Symphony Guide: Shostakovich's 15th," Guardian, 9/23/13).

View catalog record here!


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