This week you will be listening to the music of Dimitri Shostakovich, a Russian composer whose lifetime nearly encompasses the 20th century. He lived from 1906-1975 living through the Bolshevik Revolution, WWI, WWII, of worst of all The Terror, which is what people called the years when Stalin was in power. Shostakovich survived all the political turmoil and artistic suppression but at great personal cost to himself. He was often forced to speak in defense of the USSR when traveling abroad as its musical ambassador, but his music tells us another quite different story. The 8th symphony in particular is now understood to be a denunciation of totalitarianism, and in the music he mocks the members of the ruling party including Stalin himself. Shostakovich’s life was very hard and he suffered much, but through all of his difficulties he kept writing music and his music still speaks to us today.
Did you ever think that music could make you laugh? The first piece you will hear is a Polka which has so many surprising twists and turns in sound that you will hear the audience laugh out loud! Shostakovich will often use the extremes of an instrument which also adds to the humor of this piece. I dare you to keep from laughing when listening to this piece!
The second selection is the Andante movement from his second piano concerto. It is such an exquisite piece of music that I just had to share it with you. Many people describe how listening to this piece brings tears to their eyes as it is so achingly beautiful. So the two pieces for this week express emotions of humor and sarcasm and then of deep sadness and longing which reflects in a small way, the life of Dimitri Shostakovich. Happy listening!