‘Shostakovich Symphonies and Concertos’ reaches Iranian classical music fans
The fall of the Soviet empire did not diminish the popularity of Dmitry Shostakovich’s great symphonies and concertos at all, despite the fact that most of the literature on him neglects any substantive discussion of the music itself in favor of biographical speculations on the relation between the composer and the political climate of the time.
It is the first book to provide a detailed descriptive analysis of the 21 symphonies and concertos, work by work, explaining not only why they are important documents of their time and place, but why they are great music in general. This allows readers to understand why Shostakovich’s music enjoys the constant support of performers and listeners, and how it fits into the great tradition of Western classical music in general.
Child of Tsarist Russia and the Russian Revolution, Dmitry Shostakovich was born in Saint Petersburg. Throughout his life, Shostakovich suffered from the effects of a childhood of malnutrition and disease. Despite such deprivation, he became a powerful and advanced music composer.
After studying music at the Leningrad Conservatory between 1919 and 1925, Shostakovich presented his Critically acclaimed First Symphony in 1925. Over the next few years he wrote 14 more symphonies, still trying to follow the Communist Party’s prescription to portray “socialist realism”.
For his efforts, however, Shostakovich was alternately vilified and praised by the leaders of the Soviet Union. On his 60th birthday, he was finally honored as a hero of socialist labor. Of his 15 symphonies, only the Fifth Symphony (1937) and the Tenth Symphony (1953) have acquired a preponderant place in concert repertoires. The Fifth Symphony is a masterpiece of symphonic composition and follows traditional symphonic construction in its movements.
In the Tenth Symphony, Shostakovich introduced musical elements that he also incorporated into other compositions, including the fifth and eighth string quartets and his concertos for violin and cello. Shostakovich wrote ballets, such as “The Golden Age” (1930). Many of his other works have also been choreographed in ballet form.
He also composed an opera, “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District” (1930–32). Although condemned by the Soviet authorities, who saw it as marked by “Western decadence”, it enjoyed some success outside the Soviet Union. Shostakovich’s music is remarkably consistent in style, technique, and emotional content.
David Hurwitz is the founder and editor of Classicstoday.com, the first and only daily classical music magazine on the Internet, and the president and founder of the Cannes Classical Awards. He is currently a radio commentator for NPR’s Performance Today and WNYC’s Soundcheck. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Among his books are:
“Beethoven or the bust: a practical guide to understanding and listening to good music”; “The Mahler Symphonies: A User Manual”; ‘Exploring Haydn: A Listener’s Guide to Music’s Boldest Innovator’; “Making the Most of Mozart: Vocal Works”; “Brahms Symphonies: A Closer Look”; and “Listening to Mendelssohn: An Owner’s Manual”.