Sep 3, 2005 10:53 am
Shostakovich is one of the rare gems of 20th century art. He is beloved by East and West, progressives as well as traditionalists, musicians, critics and the general public. It has been said the debate between “Shostakovich the soviet propagandist” and “Shostakovich the voice of dissent” was started because the West could not produce a composer of stature that could sell records with the public–so they had to purify Shostakovich of his communist affiliation before he would be acceptable for consumption during the Cold War.

No matter which side of the debate you end up on, it just goes to show how widely appealing and emotionally rich the music is.

All 14 Symphonies are great. Probably the most popular, and my personal favorite, is Symphony No. 5, a great place to start. After that there is much debate. Some like 7 and 10. I like 2, 3 and 14. 8 through 13 is also a pretty good run. When it comes down to it there are not any bad ones and you will probably want to hear them all.

But don’t stop with the Symphonies. He wrote some great concertos, two each for violin, piano and cello. I personally love the chamber music. The 14 String Quartets are as great as the Symphonies. My favorites are No. 13 and No.14, but all the String Quartets are worth listening to. His String Quartet No. 8 is an audience favorite and don’t forget his Piano Trio. He also wrote two major works for solo piano that rank with the best: 24 Preludes, Op. 34 and 24 Preludes & Fugues, Op. 87.

He wrote almost endless music for the ballet, theater, scores for films as well as many soviet-style cantatas. If you fall in love with Shostakovich you might want to hear these, more as a curiosity than anything else. They are much lighter and utilitarian–nowhere near the level of his Symphonies and String Quartets.

If you had been listening to the BBC Proms you would have been able to hear Symphonies 8, 10, 11, the Chamber Symphony (an orchestrated version of String Quartet No. 8 ) and the first Violin Concerto. Unfortunately, the Proms are into their last week and there is no more Shostakovich on the schedule.


~ by severalfourmany on September 3, 2005.

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