Saturday, March 31, 2012

Shostakovich C Minor Fourth

The C Minor Shostakovich Fourth Symphony was written in 1935 and fell victim to Stalin's idiosyncracies.

Stalin had visited Shostakovich's opera, 'Lady Macbeth of MtKinsk' and sat near the performers section right near the brass players. He was blasted by some segments in the opera and got enraged by the discomfort he felt. After the performance, he passed a directive that Shostakovich's opera and the Fourth Symphony, that was ready for its premiere be withdrawn, be withdrawn from the repertory of all performing societies in Russia.

The symphony got its premiere performance in 1960 in Russia. It got its first performance in America in 1961 under Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. It is this recording. I never knew till today that Ormandy could conduct Shostakovich so well. It is just brilliant!
The work is a troubled one with its ironic dance movements and mystic woodwind solos. The strings are screeching for attention at times, bringing an underlying darkness out. The first movement fugue contrasts well with the two illusive climaxes. The Moderato second movement is cute with its memorable themes. All the movements are charged with emotion including the Largo and the Allegro. They are reflective of Mahler's late writing style. The slower passages in the symphony have been so well accentuated. Ormandy brings these effects out in a surprisingly feel easy mode. I have heard other performances also and hold this as definitive.

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