under pressure – part II

shostakovich #5 scares the fuck out of me.  always has, always will.  i’m (half-heartedly) sorry for those readers with fragile sensibilities, but at times there is simply no other recourse for this lowly blogger than good ol’ fashioned vulgarity.  offensive?  crude?  maybe.  here’s what’s not up for debate: composer dmitri shostakovich unveiled his fifth symphony in leningrad on a cold november night in 1937 during a time of nationwide suspicion, immense terror, and unimaginable death.  the premier landed right in the middle of what’s now known as the great purge – an intensely brutal 2-year period of bloody repression conducted by the violently egomaniacal joseph stalin.  on average, the soviet secret police executed 1,000 every day.  yes, you are reading that correctly… a thousand innocent citizens murdered every day for two years straight.  if somebody wasn’t adequately towing the party line under stalin’s regime, it didn’t matter if you were a 4-star general or a meteorologist or a composer.  no one was safe.  and shostakovich knew he was one “wrong” note away from losing his life.

on monday night, after countless hearings of this recorded symphony over the years, i finally got to experience a live performance.  (maybe performance isn’t the best word here… a proclamation?  a tribute?  a eulogy?)  from the first terrifying notes to the final dizzying crash,  maestro carlos and the band delivered every menacing moment of this music with utter commitment, virtuosity, and passion.  only a fool would attempt to single out a particular player for adulation ~ the entire orchestral roster would need to be recited.  [can i get a witness here?!]  it was one of those rarified nights where the force of great art crashed into a level of musicianship so stellar, no one could have possibly left the concert hall unchanged.  no one.

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2 Responses to “under pressure – part II”


  1. 1 Jordan Lewis April 4, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Now, Now. Who’s to say those citizens were innocent? Maybe they were plotting to overthrow the gub’mint! But since we obviously disagree on this subject, you lay off my boy Joseph and we’re all good.

    Besides, if he came from the land of wine and roses would the Shosty 5 be even half what it is today? I think not!

  2. 2 Maria Hein April 4, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Politics aside, yes, yes, yes! One of the finest of moments to be in the audience. I’m a pretty staid 60-yr-old concert-goer raised with all those old-fashioned, virtuous manners but I was surprised to hear a great whoop leave my mouth as a sprung to my seat at the end. Blown away doesn’t half cover it.


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