Author Topic: Doubting Shostakovich  (Read 18955 times)

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Offline Anne

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #40 on: June 08, 2007, 06:55:17 AM »
IMO Shostakovich is the one composer where the listener must know at least something about Sh's background.

There is a documentary, "Shostakovch: the War Years" (if that's not exactly correct, maybe someone will correct the title?) that is excellent.  Then I would listen to Sym. 10 keeping in mind what you learned in the documentary.  Think in terms of Stalin and his victims when you listen.

Once you really understand what the music is saying, it is almost overwhelming!

Come back if you need more assistance.

karlhenning

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #41 on: June 08, 2007, 10:17:52 AM »
IMO Shostakovich is the one composer where the listener must know at least something about Sh's background.

There is a documentary, "Shostakovch: the War Years" (if that's not exactly correct, maybe someone will correct the title?) that is excellent.  Then I would listen to Sym. 10 keeping in mind what you learned in the documentary.  Think in terms of Stalin and his victims when you listen.

It is indeed an excellent DVD.  If it has a fault, it is that there are times when quotes from Testimony (which any impartial reader must own is a doubtful source) are voiced-over in a way which means for the audience “Shostakovich said this!” – only, maybe he did not.  (Some of those quotes, BTW, touch on the Tenth Symphony.)

I’ve very much enjoyed reading about Shostakovich’s life and career over the years, I’ve even enjoyed (in a way) observing the shifting ground.  The “Shostakovich Wars” have been unseemly, and actually wound up clouding the air, and really setting the composer’s cause back to some degree.  But good sense, and the truth as best we might be in a position to perceive it, will win through, I am sure.

I am very much of a different opinion, Anne, and my claim is that if one’s appreciation for the music depends on the frisson of knowing the composer’s astonishing biography, then to some degree one does not really like the music at all, but instead a kind of tabloid voyeurism.

I would never go so far as to suppose that the music needs to exist in a vaccuum hermetically sealed off from the circumstances of its composer’s life.  But one reaches a point soon of saying, if the music is really any good, of itself, then it will be great music just to listen to, without the crutch of having images of the composer’s biography directly in view.

Offline Anne

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #42 on: June 08, 2007, 11:27:07 AM »
You're right, Karl.  I did really appreciate that crutch in the very beginning.  After I had a toehold, didn't need it any more.  I would not want to denigrate him in any way.

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #43 on: June 08, 2007, 11:42:22 AM »
I am very much of a different opinion, Anne, and my claim is that if one’s appreciation for the music depends on the frisson of knowing the composer’s astonishing biography, then to some degree one does not really like the music at all, but instead a kind of tabloid voyeurism.

I don't disagree at all, Karl, but I do understand Anne's point: in fact, seeing a documentary about the Eroica was my breakthrough into the work after years of fruitless listening. Of course today I don't believe half what they claimed; I see the symphony as the culmination and pinnacle of the Classical Symphony rather than the model for the new Romantic era. But at that time I saw the program, discovering the circumstances of Beethoven's life and his drive to create this heroic work really helped me come to grips with the symphony.

Sarge
« Last Edit: June 08, 2007, 11:44:42 AM by Sergeant Rock »
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

S709

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #44 on: June 08, 2007, 01:19:14 PM »
I would guess the way to go is to try the most "abstract" works of Dmitri. So I would strongly agree with the mention of Symphony No. 14, but would add the following:

The Sonata for Viola and Piano. A subtle, lyrical, haunting piece, which some say is quite 'full of despair' but I haven't been able to experience it like that really. A must-hear in order to add to an overall view of the composer!

I'd also second the recommendations of the Preludes & Fugues Op. 87, which are a unique part of the 20th century piano repertoire and quite beautiful.



Offline Anne

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #45 on: June 08, 2007, 05:46:45 PM »
Thanks, Sarge

karlhenning

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #46 on: June 08, 2007, 06:28:34 PM »
(Anne &) Sarge: Understood . . . it isn't as though we could surgically separate (nor neatly define) these planes of experiencing the artwork.  Insofar as Anne's remark might be 'overweighted,' I felt a counterbalance was in order.

Steve

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #47 on: June 08, 2007, 06:34:51 PM »

I am very much of a different opinion, Anne, and my claim is that if one’s appreciation for the music depends on the frisson of knowing the composer’s astonishing biography, then to some degree one does not really like the music at all, but instead a kind of tabloid voyeurism.

I'd agree with this position, Karl.. Too often, we see that problem with literary criticism. A student is having difficulty connecting with a work of the past, and then after reading a few biogarphies on the author, returns to the work able to access it. This doesn't need to be problematic in theory, but sometimes, it provides the student with a limiting lens with which to view the text. That lens becomes a 'crutch' and the student is prevented from seeing the work from other perspectives. Even if it does bring a sense of meaning to a piece of literature/music, secondary information about the author should not inform one's preference. If that is the case, then it is not an expression of interest in a work, but merely an expression of one's interest in the author. In fact, this is the biggest problem with interpretation. We learn that an author had a troubled childhood, and we use that experience to approach the work. We should always strive to approach art/music raw and unhindered, so that our opinions are indeed our own. If you don't like Shostakovich's 10 after repeated listening, then you don't like the piece. The only thing that should change you mind, is more expousre to the piece, and not background information.

karlhenning

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #48 on: June 08, 2007, 06:37:46 PM »
. . . If you don't like Shostakovich's 10 after repeated listening, then you don't like the piece. The only thing that should change you mind, is more expousre to the piece, and not background information.

Well, and especially when the source of some of the background is in reasonable question.

Steve

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #49 on: June 08, 2007, 06:42:30 PM »
Well, and especially when the source of some of the background is in reasonable question.

Regardless, I really can't see how background information should influence preference.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2007, 02:12:25 AM by Steve »

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #50 on: June 09, 2007, 05:48:53 AM »

If you don't like Shostakovich's 10 after repeated listening, then you don't like the piece. The only thing that should change you mind, is more expousre to the piece, and not background information.

That's not necessarily true. That certainly wasn't the case with my Eroica experience and today I love the symphony for itself, not for its historical context and importance. I just don't believe knowing the circumstances of creation and the biography of the artist ever hurt or hampered anyone's appreciation of a work of art. If it did, we would have banished critical biographies long ago. Art doesn't exist in a vacuum.

Sarge
« Last Edit: June 10, 2007, 03:50:24 AM by Sergeant Rock »
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

greg

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #51 on: June 10, 2007, 08:18:05 AM »
Shostakovich and death metal: two great tastes that go great together . . . .
I used to play the opening bars of the 2nd movement of the 10th symphony on my guitar when playing in my friends house, which was a couple months ago. He asked, "What's that?" Probably he thought it was from any old metal song. But I just told him it was from a symphony.  ;D

mahlertitan

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #52 on: June 10, 2007, 04:58:27 PM »
I used to play the opening bars of the 2nd movement of the 10th symphony on my guitar when playing in my friends house, which was a couple months ago. He asked, "What's that?" Probably he thought it was from any old metal song. But I just told him it was from a symphony.  ;D

what was his response?

Online vandermolen

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #53 on: June 10, 2007, 11:03:50 PM »
the 1982 one, its far from perfect and ive been told its got a few mistakes on there....but despite its technical flaws its a pretty passionate and intense performance, there are probably better performances available though..

I love both DGG performances but prefer (marginally) the earlier recording for the intensity of the performance.

I just bought Mravinsky's 1938 recording of No 5 which is by far the greatest recorded performance I have heard, linking it more closely to the sound world of No 4.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #54 on: June 11, 2007, 02:49:29 AM »
the 1982 one, its far from perfect and ive been told its got a few mistakes on there....but despite its technical flaws its a pretty passionate and intense performance, there are probably better performances available though..

Guess what? There aren't.

karlhenning

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #55 on: June 11, 2007, 03:21:02 AM »
Oh, I think there are.  YMMV, of course.

greg

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #56 on: June 12, 2007, 02:11:31 PM »
what was his response?
not much, he just said, "oh".

Kullervo

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #57 on: June 12, 2007, 02:19:27 PM »
Well, today I picked up Keith Jarrett's recording of the 24 Preludes and Fugues. Perhaps I will be able to set aside my prejudices and enjoy this.

Offline oyasumi

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #58 on: June 13, 2007, 08:50:20 AM »
The Preludes and Fugues are like a microcosm of Shostakovich's work. Every bit of his depth, wit, and personality is contained to the keyboard, representing what you would otherwise have to listen to hours of symphonies or quartets to get.

Drasko

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Re: Doubting Shostakovich
« Reply #59 on: June 13, 2007, 09:00:47 AM »
I just bought Mravinsky's 1938 recording of No 5

I'd love to hear that, where did you find it? What label?