Monday, September 25, 2006

Give The Russian Some

I'm really shocked that none of my normal circle of music bloginistas has said the merest pip about the centenary of Shostakovich's birth. Sure there's this other anniversary going on that everyone's flipping over, with the Mozart Opera Festival staging every single one to Alex Ross listening to every damn thing he wrote. Back home, Dmitry got his due but in Boston no one seems to care. A fear of the Reds? An intimiatingly complex life? I'll stand up to it anyway.

However, as is often the case in both aspiring bloggists and graduate students, desire far outstrips resources. I spent the day today listening to all the Shosti I had, which only amounts to the Fifth Symphony and the Piano Concertos. Not the best selection for street cred. My morning was dedicated to the symphony, not knowing much more about it other than it was the piece that got him away from that (first) denunciation by the Party. Sure it's got lots of those brassy bold Cossack rhythms, but the slow movements curl up onto themselves in a way that honestly reminds me of the processes of Reich or Riley. The reprise of the strident themes in the last movement, after the scarcity of the middle two, is undeniably sarcastic. Patriotism indeed!

The concertos are a whole 'nother universe. Alas, I was only able to run through each of them once. All I can remember is the gnarly motivic treatment between the piano and trumpet, rather reminiscient of one Ludwig van.

As landmark works as these are, my first taste of Shostakovich was his rescoring of Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin. Potemkin itself was my first knowing glimpse of "art film", that was introduced to me through of Art of Film class at my undergrad. (Which, in case you wondered, is not an art history class) The original score stressed Eisenstein's idea of the dialectic, but when the Commies called Shosti in the movie got brutal. When that legless man slides into the frame the way I watched movies changed forever, and Shostakovich was there.

So I'm going to try and listen some more, Dmitry. Here's to a hundred more.

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