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David Ayers

What is your current favorite Shostakovich symphony?

10 posts in this topic

It isn't even necessary to like Shostakovich... but I find I am quite engaged by his oeuvre despite Boulezian reservations, and maybe because of an engagement with Soviet history. In thinking about Shostakovich you have to truly get past the forged Testimony (still uncritically quoted and relied on by music hacks) and really engage the music.

I started the thread because I am currently listening to No. 7 rather a lot. I used to have this down as a cinematic score but now find a great deal in it, despite the supposed simplicity which caused a backlash against it in the postwar period. I guess I used to favor 4 (more adventurous, I thought) and 8 (more chillingly 'real', I thought) and I guess 13, 14 and recently 15 (most meaningful and autobiographical, I tended to think) but perhaps surprisingly I am finding the Leningrad is settling down at the center for me. One thing is I am quite interested in the question of public music, and as 'engaged' music which still seems to speak on its own terms no. 7 seems to me about as far as you can go in this regard (by nature of its occasion as well as its realization).

I'd be interested to hear from others on your navigation of this symphony cycle.

(oh and to repeat the point I'd like us if possible to stay away from discussion of particular performances or recordings, both because I am interested in hearing about the actual works, and because I regard actual performances as subordinate to the works)

Edited by David Ayers

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Oh, that's easy. The Seventh is my favourite.

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Four. If I'm in a bad mood when I die, I will have it played at my funeral.

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question - do you guys pronounce it

Shos TOK o vich or

shos to KO vich ?

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question - do you guys pronounce it

Shos TOK o vich or

shos to KO vich ?

The Russian pronounciation is Shos-ta-KO-vich.

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Now let us return to the symphonies.

After the 4th, my favorites are 1 and 5. The 7th falls mid-pack for me.

I should say the performance/recording has a lot to do with my choices. Impossible to ignore this.

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I have never been a huge fan of the 7th. I like the 10th and the 5th quite a bit. I am also quite attached to the 14th, although it is arguably not really a genuine symphony. The 15th also has some very engaging moments.

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I love the 7th - it gets a lot of flack because of the semi-Bolero section in the first movement (notably Bartok's parody in the Concerto for Orchestra) but as a whole I think it is magnificent. There's a lovely, bucolic passage just before the Bolero starts up that conjours up visions of peasants happily bringing in the harvest on the collective (not a raincloud, purge or grain seizure in sight) - I used to use it in the background of a sequence of slides showing Soviet propaganda photos and posters from around the time of collectivisation.

The slow movement is heart-breaking.

I don't really have a single favourite - 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 10th and 15th all really do it for me in the 'dour' symphonies. I enjoy the greater playfulness of the 1st and 9th and there's plenty to enjoy in the more cinematic 11th/12th. I don't play the 13th/14th so often - I'm not big on classical vocals.

It's only the 2nd and 3rd that leave me a bit cold.

Edited by Bev Stapleton

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Very fond of 6. I might be the only one who feels this way.

Also 4 and 8. And I mean to spend more time with 14 and 15.

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Very fond of 6. I might be the only one who feels this way.

No, I'm a fan of 6 too. It's shortness and rather odd structure - an opening slow movement, then two quick movements - probably counts against it being as well considered as the more traditionally structured 4th, 5th or 10th.

[There was an excellent BBC Radio 3 90 min programme by Stephen Johnson on the two Shostakovich pianos trios broadcast this evening - available on the BBC replayer until next Sunday (18th Oct). It was recorded in a school so some of the historical explanation sounds a little simplistic to an adult audience; but it's good to hear the musical side (how the cells in the music generate other themes etc) explained so plainly.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00n6thz]

Edited by Bev Stapleton

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