Composers Datebook for November 3, 2011

 
 
 
 


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Produced in association with the American Composers Forum

Thursday, November 3

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On today's date in 1943, a specially invited audience filed into the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory to hear the dress rehearsal of the new Eighth Symphony by Dmitri Shostakovich.

Anticipation ran high. Shostakovich's Seventh, his patriotic and rousing "Leningrad" Symphony, had attracted worldwide attention and ecstatic official praise. The Soviet Union was still at war, and the tide was beginning to turn, with the Russians starting to sense victory. Shostakovich had said his new work, "could not help but be influenced by the joyful news connected with the victories of the Red Army . . . The Eighth Symphony is, on the whole, an optimistic, life-affirming work."

Its first audiences found Shostakovich's new symphony both puzzling in form and downright tragic in tone. And, two years later to the day, on November 3, 1945, when Shostakovich's Ninth Symphony premiered, the reaction was even more striking. This time Shostakovich had been quoted as saying his new symphony would, "honor with reverence the memory of the brave soldiers who have died and glorify the heroes of our army for eternity."

What audiences got was something quite different: a quirky, light-hearted romp. Audiences and musicians liked it, but official Soviet critics were not amused, finding it all much too frivolous and silly. It would be decades before both these "politically incorrect" works could be heard for what they actually were, rather than what they were supposed to be.

Music Played on Today's Program:

Dmitri Shostakovich
(1906 - 1975):
Symphony No. 8, Op. 65
Leningrad Philharmonic;
Yevgeny Mravinsky, cond.
Philips 422 442
&
Symphony No. 9, Op. 70
St. Petersburg Philharmonic;
Yuri Termirkanov, cond.
BMG/RCA 68548

Additional Information:

On Dimitri Shostakovich
More on Shostakovich

About the Program
Composers Datebook is a daily program about composers of the past and present, hosted by John Zech.

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