The Unexpected Joy of Dmitri Shostakovich

This past weekend, I went to a performance of the local orchestra for the first time in I can’t even remember how long. There was a special going on for seriously discounted tickets if you attend three or more performances during the season, so we decided to branch out and see more of what our local cultural scene has to offer. Besides, director and principal conductor JoAnn Falletta is brilliant and her recent interview with Persephone turned me into a huge fangirl. Anyway, this weekend’s scheduled concert included a piece from Dmitri Shostakovich, a composer I wasn’t familiar with but immediately fell in love with.

Dmitri Shostakovich was a 20th century Soviet composer who wrote dozens of symphonies, concertos, operas, chamber ensemble pieces, and even film scores. Apparently, he’s quite famous so I don’t know where I’ve been all this time. You can read all about him on his (extensive!) Wikipedia page. This isn’t a Badass Ladies of History post, after all! I want to share with you two of the pieces I heard at the concert this weekend, selections from the film score of The Gadfly. It was beautiful.

This whole experience got me thinking. We’d selected this particular concert because of Rachmaninoff’s Third, which was performed after the intermission. The Shostakovich was unexpected but probably my favorite part of the whole night. I love it when that happens, whether it’s with an anthology of authors or an art gallery or a concert. You go into something for a particular thing and end up discovering something else you enjoy even more. What are some unexpected surprises you all have found over the years? Any under-appreciated treasures the rest of us should know about?

By BaseballChica03

Political hack. Word nerd. Stays crispy in milk. Oxford Comma user. Blogger since 2001.

3 replies on “The Unexpected Joy of Dmitri Shostakovich”

I really love Shostakovich (former/semi-retired/now I only play renaissance recorder) flute player I love the way he writes for wind instruments (we actually get to play really hard technically demanding stuff in his music which wasn’t really happening at that part of the 20th century). I *highly* recommend the cello concerto, it is supposed to be an allegory for a factory in Stalinist Russia, also Symphony no. 5 is amazing, as are the String Quartets!

Edit: Also- the piece on JoAnn Falletta made me want to take the grey hound to Buffalo (I am in Toronto, Canada so it’s a quick trip!) to see the Buffalo Phil. :-)

Man, I love me some Shostakovich! Especially the Leningrad symphony (No. 7) because of the amazing history. I was lucky enough to hear the symphony  in St. Petersburg, though that actually isn’t so remarkable because groups are playing it constantly for the tourists much like you can always find a production of Swan Lake, and I just couldn’t imagine what something that powerful and beautiful must of meant to the besieged city.

This post also reminded me of a Russian short story that I thought was called “The Gadfly” but it is actually “The Steel Flea” by Leskov. I’ve been reading short story collections lately and it has been a wonderful way to discover new authors. Maybe I should be trying something similar with music!

When I was living in Seattle, I went to the SAM to see a special exhibit (I think it was George de Forest Brush’s Indian Paintings, which were magnificent) but wandered through the general collection and found John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Leon Delafosse. I fell in love. It’s a quiet, warm portrait of a young pianist.

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