The way Shostakovich introduces his first motives gives us a hint as to their meaning. As the movement progresses, however, he transforms these motives in dramatic ways, changing things like tempo, instrumentation, dynamics, setting. Does doing so change their meanings as well?
In 1937 Russia, at the height of Stalin’s purges, the Communist Party strongly denounced Dmitri Shostakovich’s most recent works. Fearing for his life, the young composer wrote a symphony ending with a rousing march.
Following its premiere there was widespread speculation—from an ‘official’ review by Alexei Tolstoy to Shostakovich’s son Maxim’s remarks many years later-—about just what Shostakovich was saying. Reading how others interpreted the music may help you decide what you think this controversial symphony means.
Aaron Copland blended his Brooklyn Jewish roots with jazz, folk music, and hymns to gamble on a new American sound, yet how such an unlikely outsider captured the spirit of Billy the Kid is a tale worth its own string section. From Fanfare for the Common Man to Appalachian Spring, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony pare Copland down to reveal the sound we now recognize as purely American.
Savage and primitive, hypnotic and hell-bent, Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring turned Paris into the scene of one of the most astounding opening nights in history. In this episode of Keeping Score, the clutching tendrils of the music pull us back through France and Russia to the wild abandon of pagan times.
Hidden beneath the surface of his life-saving Symphony No. 5, Shostakovich may have left a subversive cipher. In this episode of Keeping Score, investigate the arresting symphony that would either redeem Shostakovich or condemn him to the Gulag. What Shostakovich has to say might depend on what you’re brave enough to hear.
Ranging from tender sentiment to savage chaos, the music of early 20th-century composer Charles Ives explores an essentially American riddle: how can we survive the relentless assault of our own success? Join Michael Tilson Thomas as he, the San Francisco Symphony, and Charles Ives belt it out over truth, beauty, and the American Way.