The Shostakovich’s Fifth

Yesterday, I took mom to the CSO – one of my subscription series was Sunday matinee so that I could take her. And after last week’s success with taking the L to the Atr Institute, she was excited to return to resume more cultural activities.

But that’s not about mom; it’s about the program. It was an all-Russian program, and I believe the hit of it was intended to be the “Dairy of a Madman” by Lera Auerbach. I liked the piece; however, the Shostakovich Fith Symphony was the one that impressed me the most.

Interestingly, I vividly remember when I hear it for the first time. It was in Leningrad State Philarmonic. I was fourteen or fifteen, and I even remember where approximately mom and I sat. I also remember that it was performed after the intermission and that I understood nothing about it! I remember thinking – what all these random parts could mean together?! 

After that first time, I listened to this symphony at different concerts at least three times, but it was yesterday that I felt I heard it for the first time. At first sounds, I thought: is it really the same piece?! I can’t remember it sounding like that! 

And then I listened as if for the first time, and I could not believe what I was hearing. On my way back, I even looked it up to check what critics were saying and how this symphony is usually interpreted. Because the question I had was – how it was ever allowed to be performed in the Soviet Union?! 

Yes, Shostakovich is a hooligan in most of his works (and that’s what I love about his music). But how could anybody ever believe that this piece was “glorifying the Soviet achievements?! This bitter irony, these twists of the “heroic” themes, such a distinct picture of violence which follows “the hero” – how could it be possible that nobody noticed it?! Or is it that those who noticed were silent? When I asked Boris just this: how this piece was allowed to be performed in the Soviet Union, Boris told me that once he was present at the musical lecture at the Composers’ association, and the lecturer told them that “there is a lot of mystery in this piece.” Well… 🙂

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