“From the first minute, the listener is shocked by deliberate dissonance, by a confused stream of sound. Snatches of melody, the beginnings of a musical phrase, are drowned, emerge again, and disappear in a grinding and squealing roar. […] Thus it goes, practically throughout the entire opera. The singing on the stage is replaced by shrieks. […] This music is built on the basis of negating opera […] While our critics, including music critics, swear by the name of socialist realism, the stage serves us, in Shostakovich’s creation, the coarsest kind of naturalism. […] And all this is coarse, primitive and vulgar. The music quacks, grunts, and growls, and suffocates itself in order to express the love scenes as naturalistically as possible. And ‘love’ is smeared all over the opera in the most vulgar manner.”
Eery. That’s what it is – eery. Shostakovich’s second cello concerto. I am currently playing one of Shostakovich’s preludes and will embark on learning the corresponding fugue soon. Odd accords, odd sound, odd melodies. Shostakovich’s music is odd and he was the odd man out among the Soviet Union’s composers. Subversive in sounds and thoughts. Ambiguous whenever possible. That’s probably the reason why I love his music.
Two days ago I gave you an impromptu on the pupil. Today I will give you one on the master! Yesterday Luxembourg celebrated the Day of Europe, a brand new banking holiday, courtesy of our Socialist coalition party, the very party claiming that Luxembourg needs to defend its competitiveness by increasing the flexibility of its work force. Raising profits by working less – the magic formula! Luxembourg’s economy obeys revolutionary new rules.
The quartet starts with an element of pain, a nervous anxiety. But Dmitry Shostakovich quickly introduces a balancing element, a comforting melody, trying to cover the repetitive pattern in a struggle for acoustic supremacy – in vain. Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 5 in B flat major (Op. 92) is one more example of the composer’s amazing talent to express emotions with maximal clarity in a few, essential bars.