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ClassicsOnline Home » SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10
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"This CD belongs in the group of best recordings of this symphony"
Dmitry Shostakovich (1906 - 1975)
Symphony No.10 in E Minor, Op. 93
Dmitry Shostakovich belonged to the first generation of Russian
composers to reach maturity after the revolution of 1917. Born in w hat was
then St. Petersburg in 1906, he studied the piano with his mother, a
professional pianist and entered the Conservatory in his native city in 1919.
There his teachers included Maximilian Steinberg, Rirnsky-Korsakov's
son-in-law, while his father's ability to supply the Conservatory director
Glazunov with vodka endeared him to the latter. Like Prokofiev, his senior by a
few years, he studied as a pianist and as a composer, winning ac claim in 1926
for his graduation piece, the First Symphony, which was warmly welcomed both at
home and abroad.
The first real difficulties that Shostakovich was to meet came with his
opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District, otherwise known under the title
Katerina Ismailova. Based on a novella by Nikolay Leskov, the work won
immediate success as a model of Soviet achievement, an opera that expressed the
ideas implicit in the Revolution. In January 1936, two years after the first
performance in Leningrad, Pravda launched an unexpected attack on the opera and
its composer, apparently on the direct instruction of Stalin. This condemnation
marked the victory of a populist element in Soviet musical circles. Composers
were to avoid modernism in favour of a form of music directly intelligible to
the people, expressive of the optimism of the Soviet regime.
Shostakovich wrote a fifth symphony that in some ways seemed to make up
for his lapse, but felt from this time onwards the precariousness of his
position. In 1948 Zhdanov, the commissar in charge of the Union of Soviet
Composers, once again brought charges of formalism and modernism against
Shostakovich and Prokofiev, criticism that Shostakovich accepted. The immediate
result was a dichotomy in his work between the private and personal and music
for public consumption.
The death of Stalin in 1953, on the same day as the unfortunate
Prokofiev, brought some relaxation in the strict control of the arts that had
proved possible once more in the post-war years. Shostakovich had been obliged
to dedicate his Ninth Symphony in 1945 to Stalin, who was angry at its lack of
patriotic triumphalism, with no chorus or soloists to praise the teacher and
leader. The Tenth Symphony,
written in 1953, was intended as the composer's own bitter celebration of
Stalin's death, with the second movement scherzo a portrait of the defunct
leader, conceived with all the pent-up feelings of resentment held in check
during years of oppression. The work had a mixed reception. Abroad in Western
Europe and in America it seemed to return Shostakovich from a political and
patriotic ghetto to the international world of the symphony, while in Russia
there were still influential musicians who found the work unrealistic and
objected to its obvious pessimism. Its eventual more general acceptance even at
home effectually widened the horizons of possible Soviet music.
The extended first movement opens with the lower strings announcing the
first thematic strand from which the rest of the movement develops, with a
further element added by the clarinet, and a third important element appearing
later in the lower register of the flute, accompanied by violins and violas.
From these materials the long opening movement grows. The scherzo is a portrait
of Stalin, seen in no kindly light and the third derives its substance from two
elements, the second of which is a musical cryptogram of the composer's name,
the letters DSCH providing him, in German letter notation, with the figure D E
fiat C B natural, which from now on makes its recurrent appearance in the
composer's work. The poignant conclusion of the movement is followed by a finale
that starts with all the intense feeling of Mahler. An oboe solo follows the
initial ominous music of the lower strings, offering a lament, taken up by
flute and bassoon. An Allegro lightens the mood, although tragedy, comedy and
satire are juxtaposed in what follows, the first of these strengthened by the
ever-recurrent figure that conceals the composer's name.
BRT Philharmonic Orchestra, Brussels
The history of the BRT Philharmonic Orchestra, Brussels goes back to
the birth of the Belgian Radio in the 1930's. After the well-known musicologist
and promoter of contemporary music, Paul Collaer, had become head of the Music
Department of the Belgian Radio, the orchestra, under its conductor Franz Andre
gained a world-wide reputation for its interpretations of the latest
compositions of Stravinsky, Berg, Bartók, Hindemith and other 20th century
composers. For example, the orchestra gave the first European performance of
Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra in
Paris and the first West-European performance of the Fourth Symphony by
Shostakovich. The orchestra at that time worked with many of today's leading
conductors from Pierre Boulez, Paul Hindemith and Darius Milhaud to Lorin
Maazel and Zubin Mehta.
In 1978 the Radio Symphony Orchestra was dissolved and both the Flemish
and the French Radio divisions set up their own symphony orchestras. The
Flemish network soon had a new orchestra, the BRT Philharmonic, comprising some
90 musicians and Fernand Terby became its principal conductor from 1978 to
1988. Since 1988, Alexander Rahbari has been the principal conductor and
musical director of the new BRT Philharmonic Orchestra.
Alexander Rahbari Alexander Rahbari was born in Iran in 1948 and was
trained as a conductor at the Vienna Music Academy as a pupil of von Einem,
Swarowsky and Oesterreicher. On his return to Iran he was appointed director of
the Teheran Conservatory of Music and took a leading position in the cultural
development of his country. In 1977 he moved to Europe, winning first prize in
the Besancon International Conductors' Competition and the Geneva silver medal.
In 1979 he was invited by Herbert von Karajan to conduct the Berlin
Philharmonic Orchestra and served as a von Karajan's assistant in Salzburg.
Rahbari's subsequent career has been highly successful, with concerts
throughout the world and engagements in leading opera-houses. He is guest
conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, with Giuseppe Sinopoli, and has
conducted major orchestras throughout Europe, in Japan and In Canada. Alexander
Rahbari is now a citizen of Austria.
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SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10