Author Topic: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work  (Read 1551 times)

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Lilas Pastia

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The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« on: October 04, 2012, 10:19:18 AM »
Following the first thread I started in that vein (Schumann), I propose the work I consider to encompass most, if not all of what I hear in Shostakovich. The work that encapsulates all that makes him totally unique: the sound world, always recognizable whether it's in a chamber, orchestral or vocal work. The unique thematic cast. The mélange of nagging, motoric, driving rythms with moments of unbearable sadness and despair. Pride, defiance or clownish, satiric bite.  The total command of structure, whether it is unconventional (symphonies 6, 8 and 13) or classical.

After much debating, I narrrowed the choice between the 2nd piano Trio and...the Piano Quintet. The latter is my choice for the quintessential Shostakovich work. What nailed it for me is the very beginning: the commanding, almost intimidating piano introduction in the form of a Bach prelude. And of course all that follows.

- The arch-like 5 movement structure (half of his quartets and symphonies are cast in one form or another of arch structure with an odd number of movements). Contrary to the classical four movement structure, the arch gives a sense of timelessness within temporal confines, a sort or orb instead of the usual horizontal line (as in 'horizon' : what your eyes can see starting and ending at the confines of one's visual span).

- The melodic contents, one of the strongest of all his works. The conciseness with which he develops his material. contrary to other movements where conciseness is absolutely not one of his concerns, such as in the first movements of his 4th, 7th and 8th symphonies. The rest of these works if of necessity unbalanced, a fact that Shostakovich acknowledges and copes with). The  mastery and invention of its instrumentation. The full quintet is rarely used, except in the central scherzo. The extraordinary range used by the instruments, from the bottom to the top of their range (esp. the piano).

- The feeling that this is totally 'exposed' music from first to last. There is no place to hide - as in a Brahms quartet or quintet for example, where the middle voices and full use of the instruments' mid range create a very full, saturated sonority. It's as if nothing could possibly have been distributed differently: the instrumental voice that carries a particular melodic or rythmic aspect of the musical phrase. The character of the music demands exactly what the composer wrote. I suppose one could write the same of other DSCH works, but to my ears this is the one where the mix and concentration of these attributes is condensed to such a unique degree.

I'm not saying it's my preferred Shostakovich work, or the one that is most immediately appealing (it is not, by any stretch of the imagination). But to me it's the essence of DSCH.

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2012, 10:25:58 AM »
The essence of Shostakovich can be found in many of his works. One of the most striking can be heard in the Passacaglia of the Violin Concerto No. 1. For me, it seemed like in this movement that Shostakovich finally broke down and expressed himself in such an honest way. All the sadness he was feeling around this time and about all of the things that were happening around him, so I do agree that the Piano Quintet is a tremendous work and deeply expressive, but Shostakovich was a complex musical personality. Trying to nail it down to one work is incredibly difficult to do.
"Music must be beautiful or it wouldn't be worth the effort.” - Bohuslav Martinů

Lilas Pastia

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2012, 10:34:27 AM »
In other words, you do not agree with the purpose of these threads, which is ok. Bear with me, as more are coming ;D

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2012, 10:41:26 AM »
In other words, you do not agree with the purpose of these threads, which is ok. Bear with me, as more are coming ;D

The Largo movements of the Symphonies 5-7 are also emotionally revealing. String Quartet No. 8 has some of the most aggressive music wrote, which, again, reveals another side to this complicated man. All of these are valid statements that show Shostakovich in a different light.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2012, 03:13:33 PM by Mirror Image »
"Music must be beautiful or it wouldn't be worth the effort.” - Bohuslav Martinů

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2012, 10:53:11 AM »
Here's a contrarian take on The Quintessential Shostakovich Piece:

The music for the Kozintsev film of Hamlet. You've got tragedy, you've got gallows humor, you've got pageantry, you've got the periods of introspective depth. As a thumbnail for Shostakovich, I think this music for a soundtrack can scarcely be bettered.
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Scarpia

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2012, 11:31:22 AM »
I find my enthusiasm for Shostakovich ebbing recently, but the sonata for viola and piano remains, for me, his most characteristic work.

DavidW

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2012, 12:25:57 PM »
The piano quintet while a fine piece, lacks the humor and charm of some of some of Shostakovich's other pieces.  I agree with MI, I don't think that you can find one all encapsulating piece.  But I give kudos to Karl for trying hard. ;D

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2012, 12:26:44 PM »
Here's a contrarian take on The Quintessential Shostakovich Piece:

The music for the Kozintsev film of Hamlet. You've got tragedy, you've got gallows humor, you've got pageantry, you've got the periods of introspective depth. As a thumbnail for Shostakovich, I think this music for a soundtrack can scarcely be bettered.


I think I'll listen to this one again tonight, Karl. It's been awhile. You really must be smitten with this work.
"Music must be beautiful or it wouldn't be worth the effort.” - Bohuslav Martinů

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2012, 12:44:42 PM »
For humor, both playful and gallows, along with profound depth and despair, I nominate the 15th Symphony as having the essence of Shostakovich. It's both a summing up and a symphonic swan song.

Sarge
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he was as f*cked-up as you are."
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Offline TheGSMoeller

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2012, 01:43:36 PM »
For humor, both playful and gallows, along with profound depth and despair, I nominate the 15th Symphony as having the essence of Shostakovich. It's both a summing up and a symphonic swan song.

Sarge

This, this, this and this, many times over.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2012, 01:57:00 PM »
Aye, nice pick, Sarge.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
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http://www.karlhenning.com/
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Lilas Pastia

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2012, 01:58:35 PM »
For humor, both playful and gallows, along with profound depth and despair, I nominate the 15th Symphony as having the essence of Shostakovich. It's both a summing up and a symphonic swan song.

Sarge

Good point, Sarge. In a sense it's like he was shedding away lots of excess baggage and scraping right to the nerves and bones of his music. As he did in what is for me his most sublime work, the 15th string quartet.

The Hamlet film score will be on the menu this week. It wouldn't dawn on me to choose a film or play score for obvious structural issues though. But the music is what counts!

Offline ChamberNut

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2012, 01:58:59 PM »
Very difficult to even narrow down.

String Quartet # 8

Symphonies 5, 7, 8, 10, 11

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CaughtintheGaze

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2012, 02:00:25 PM »
Piano Concerto No. 1

Offline Madiel

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2012, 02:01:19 PM »
In other words, you do not agree with the purpose of these threads, which is ok. Bear with me, as more are coming ;D

I don't agree with the purpose for ANY composer.  What's the goal? To pigeonhole someone and say "that's who you are"?  How would you feel if someone took a single action of yours and used it to define the whole of you?
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Lilas Pastia

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2012, 02:04:17 PM »
I don't agree with the purpose for ANY composer.  What's the goal? To pigeonhole someone and say "that's who you are"?  How would you feel if someone took a single action of yours and used it to define the whole of you?

As I said ( which you quoted) It's ok not to agree with it. No need to develop an ulcer  ;).

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2012, 02:05:08 PM »
LOL. Two lines = an ulcer.  If I wrote a paragraph you'd be writing my obituary.
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Lilas Pastia

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #17 on: October 04, 2012, 02:09:16 PM »
LOL. Two lines = an ulcer.  If I wrote a paragraph you'd be writing my obituary.

That's because you are very eloquent. A lot can be said in just two lines ;).

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #18 on: October 04, 2012, 02:12:26 PM »
I'll go with the Op. 87 Preludes and Fugues - it's all there.

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Re: The essence of Shostakovich can be found in THIS work
« Reply #19 on: October 04, 2012, 02:32:56 PM »
Since I believe Shostakovich is truly a multi-faceted musical personality and can't be summed with one composition, I nominate Symphony No. 8 as a work that shows him making an honest musical statement. This symphony was also a work that proved to be unpopular and was even banned I believe for eight or nine years. I consider it one of Shostakovich's greatest works.
"Music must be beautiful or it wouldn't be worth the effort.” - Bohuslav Martinů