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DMITRY SHOSTAKOVICH 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87
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09 August, 19:30
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Stiftung Mozarteum – Großer Saal | Display seating plan with categories
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Domestic cultural policy has saddled the life and work of few artists with as great a predicament as Dmitri Shostakovich: co-opted on the one side by the Soviet regime and treated as their internationally successful ‘model composer’, he was none-theless by no means immune from harsh official measures and potentially life-threatening reprisals. In his search for freedom within the sometimes excruciatingly narrow confines of Soviet doctrine, he often resorted to ploys to preserve his artistic and human integrity behind the public mask he had to wear. The opaque undercurrents in his music, thick with pathos and the grotesque, were intuitively comprehended by Russian audiences but misunderstood in the West for many years.
This will be reflected, parallel to the new production of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, by a special emphasis in the concert programme, which gives prominence both to Shostakovich’s music and the special bond he felt with several cherished musical forebears. In his 24 Preludes and Fugues he paid homage to Bach, drawing inspiration from Bachian style and incorporating it into his own musical language. He chose Beethoven as the model for his intimate, diary-like string quartets, embedding in his autobiographical Eighth Quartet an eerie knocking motif, which political dissidents used to warn of informants in their midst.
A distinctly Mahlerian inflection, exaggerated to grotesque lengths and at the same time stripped raw to the bone, runs through the symphonies, and acutely so in the Fifteenth Symphony (1971), the composer’s last, which is peppered with quotations from Rossini and Wagner and drips with bitter irony. There is also the brilliance of the insouciant First Symphony, written by the twenty-year old Shostakovich, and the monumental Seventh, the ‘Leningrad’. Conceived in that city during the two-and-a-half year siege waged by the German Wehrmacht in World War II, and widely perceived at the time as a clear patriotic symbol of unyielding resistance, the work takes a stand not only against the external threat but also the dictatorship within.
Translated by Sebastian Smallshaw
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