Recorded January 5-8, 2023, as part of the Texas Instruments Classical Series. Brought to you as part of the NEXT STAGE Digital Concert Series Presented by PNC.
JAMES CONLON conducts
ALEXANDER KERR violin
SHOSTAKOVICH Festive Overture
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 5 in D minor
During the reign of Stalin, Shostakovich spent much of his time playing cat-and-mouse games with the culture police; always trying to push his artistic boundaries outwards without offending Stalin by seeming too formalist.
Shostakovich the composer has taken a lot of flack from Western musicologists for seeming to capitulate to the whims of Stalin and his henchmen. At the time, criticism was life threatening, not merely career threatening, which explains why Shostakovich withheld his exploratory Fourth Symphony (being performed later in the season) and composed instead the Fifth to please the regime.
It is interesting to consider how Shostakovich might have perceived the place of the artist in the Stalinist order of things when he relates:
“An artist whose portrait did not resemble the leader disappeared forever. So did the writer who used ‘crude words.’ No one entered into aesthetic discussions with them or asked them to explain themselves. Someone came for them at night. That’s all. These were not isolated cases, not exceptions. You must understand that.”
“It didn’t matter how the audience reacted to your work or if the critics liked it. All that had no meaning in the final analysis. There was only one question of life or death: how did the leader like your Op.? I stress: life or death, because we are talking about life or death here, literally, not figuratively. That’s what you must understand.”