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234th Season

Schnittke. Shostakovich. Performed by Alexander Toradze (piano), Siwon Kim and The Mariinsky Orchestra. Conductor - Valery Gergiev


Commemorating 75 Years of Victory


Alfred Schnittke
Concerto for Piano four hands and Chamber Orchestra

Dmitry Shostakovich
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, Op. 102
Symphony No 7 in C Major (Leningrad)

The concert will feature the use of an acoustic shell

In the history of music there has probably never been another symphony whose explosive rise to fame occurred so quickly, so thunderously, and at the same time so enduringly, a fame that lasts even today. Composed in the first months after the start of the Great Patriotic War (in Leningrad and subsequently in Kuibyshev to where Shostakovich was evacuated) Shostakovich’s symphony No 7 was first performed on 5 March 1942 in Kuibyshev by the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra under conductor Samuil Samosud. 22 March saw a repeat performance in Moscow. Subsequently the symphony was being performed all over the globe. In Novosibirsk it was performed by the Leningrad Philharmonic under Yevgeny Mravinsky. The honour of the first US performance on 19 July 1942 fell to Arturo Toscanini. In the 1942–1943 season alone the symphony was played in North America sixty-two times! And in the first post-war season Shostakovich’s work was played in almost every major European city, among them Paris, Rome, Vienna, Sofia, Belgrade, Budapest, Oslo, Copenhagen, Bucharest, Krakow and Zagreb. The winter of 1946–1947 saw the first performance of the symphony in Berlin. However, the most famous, legendary performance of the Seventh Symphony was that in Leningrad during the Siege at the Great Philharmonic Hall on 9 August 1942 under Karl Eliasberg.

Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony is majestic music about mankind’s resistance to violence and tyranny, to a machine of evil and destruction. The symphony opens to a powerful unison of strings – the main theme of the first movement. It is set off by a lyrical secondary theme. Together they conjure up an integrated, harmonious image of life at peace. The more terrifying, therefore the “theme of invasion” that creeps in. It enters to a drum roll – mechanical and primitive – the mindless march of soldiers, and a vulgar chansonette. But gradually the musical theme “augments in iron and in blood. It paralysed the auditorium. It paralysed the world” (Yevgeny Petrov). As it advances to heights of incredible tension throughout the entire orchestra, the heroic music of resistance enters. The grandiose symphonic battle ends with a funereal bassoon solo. The somewhat lighter coda darkens again with a dry drum roll… The second movement is an unusual scherzo: the outside lyrical sections frame the scherzo episode itself – sharply rhythmical and jagged. The composer explained that these pages are characterisations of “recollections covered by a fog of sadness and dreams”. “The third movement,” Shostakovich continued, “is a pathetique Adagio. The thrill of life, homage to nature – that is the meaning.” Straight away, like a far-off thundering against Hitler, in the tremolo of the kettledrums the finale begins.

The vortexes of the passages against the background of the embossed rhythm of brass and percussion give the impression of a battle, this time victorious. The slow, almost laboured approach to the conclusion begins – the approach to the courageous, radiant epilogue, to the triumphal introduction of the main theme from the first movement of the symphony.
Iosif Raiskin

Age category 6+

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1 Theatre Square
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