Have a look at the picture – what do you see? Not much, I agree. It is dark, an eery light hovers over the horizon. A few lights, one on the top of a distant tall building. It’s a lighthouse. On an island. Shadowy figures walking briskly down a paved road. What are they up to? Would you feel comfortable walking behind these people? Now imagine this scenery with howling winds, battering rain and the uncertainty of being in time for the last ferry. Finally the soundtrack: the first movement of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 107. Now you have reasons to shiver and to feel tight.
Waiting. How much time we spend just waiting. Currently I am waiting for my daughter. She’s taking swimming lessons and I am waiting dutifully in the car listening to extraordinary music: Dmitry Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67, recorded by the Beaux Arts Trio. The time we wait for someone to come or something to happen is not to be considered time lost. It can be turned into something useful.
A dramatic opening, full of apprehension – something terrible is going to happen. But what? A murder? Yes. It’s Good Friday. Today, Christians all over the world mourn the death of Jesus Christ at the cross. Today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow Christians all over the world renew their hope that Jesus’ sacrifice was not in vain, but quite to the contrary, that it was meant to inspire his followers, to give them the courage and strength to believe in a life after death.
Satire is the only weapon available to the critical mind facing an overwhelming oppressor. Can you cast satire in music? Dmitry Shostakovich can. A few months back, I enjoyed the performance of his String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 122 by the Borodin String Quartet. If I had to characterize the concert in one word, I would say it was brilliant. Brilliant on two accounts. The Borodin String Quartet’s interpretation of Op. 122 was flawless. And the piece itself is one of Shostakovich’s ultimate strokes of genius.