Shostakovich’s Joyful Darkness – WebThéâtre :: News about performances, theater, opera, music, dance

DIMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH SPENT ALL OF HIS LIFE in torment. Interrogated harshly since 1936 (he was only thirty years old) in an article by Pravda about the opera Lady Macbeth from Mzensk, he lived like many others in fear of being arrested one fine morning and sent to camps, was accused by Zhdanov of “formalism” in 1948, experienced the relative thaw of the 1960s, died in 1975, seven years before Brezhnev. His naturally inclined temperament for pathos (but also for resistance through music, its code and mazes), married to historical circumstances, gave rise to a profuse musical oeuvre, which notably includes fifteen string quartets, six concertos and fifteen symphonies. Because Shostakovich, by choice and impossibility, in the Soviet Union, to initiate too bold forms or language (always formalism, a word that obviously means nothing!), Was one of those who cultivated in the glorious 20th century . form for the orchestra, behind a Gustav Mahler.

Like Mahler, however, Shostakovich was eager to vary the form of his score. This is how some of his symphonies use that sound. That Fourteenth, singularly, is written for soprano, bass, string orchestra, and percussion. It does not consist of the usual moves but of a series of eleven pages of varying length, on poems by Federico Garcia Lorca, Guillaume Apollinaire (six of eleven!), Wilhelm Küchelbeker and Rainer Maria Rilke, all translated into Russian except from Küchelbeker (1797 -1846), written directly in this language.

Rebellion and Ghosts

Dedicated to Benjamin Britten, this symphony was composed and premiered in 1969, seven years after Shostakovich arranged Song and Dance of Death from Mussorgsky. In fact, it is a broad reflection on death, by turns meditative, torn, sarcastic, hopeless. The composer himself proposed versions for soprano, bass, piano and percussion, which oddly enough were never played, and which pianist Nicolas Stavy gave the world premiere on November 7 at the Philharmonie de Paris, with Ekaterina Bakanova, Alexandros Stavrakakis and percussionist Florent Jodelet. A recording of this work appears today on Bis, by the same artist. The results are startling: the original piece is rich in pathos and rebellion, but the replacement of the piano with a string orchestra adds a ghostly dimension to it, marked by abyss and visions of terror, that stuns the listener on the spot.

It all starts with a few notes in the treble that we don’t know whether it’s a sigh, a song of madness, a murmur, then a symphony (but is it still a symphony?) of flying, sometimes performed by a beautiful song. the momentum breaks fast, sometimes angry and mad (“La Lorelei”), sometimes quiet (“Le Suicidé”). The piano alternates motor and percussion (like Prokofiev or Bartók), lost in an atmosphere of suffocating refinement (“A la santé”), approaching nothingness (“La Mort du poet”). More than strings, of course, the piano allows for hideous sounds and disarticulated subjects that make the music all the more oppressive: where there is theater of the absurd, why no music of the absurd?

Impeccable lamentation

Nicolas Stavy’s impeccable mastery (colour, atmosphere, dynamics) is matched by Florent Jodelet’s, who makes musical instruments, vibraphones and xylophones crackle, or bells ring in the void. Ekaterina Bakanova has a lyrical timbre and temperament, but Alexandros Stavrakakis, moreover, has a broad, sad tone that is ideal for this lamentary music.

This recording also includes a four-page short for solo piano composed between 1917 and 1919 by the young Shostakovich: a Funeral march in memory of the victims of the Revolutiontitled page Tosca (“Nostalgia”), others were baptized In the forestand a Rather rated prestige. But also unfinished sonatas for violin and piano (performed with Sueye Park). Not to forget the four-handed piano arrangement, played with Cédric Tiberghien, from the first third of the Adagio de la Tenth Symphony by Mahler. It should be remembered that Shostakovich, like Schönberg and several others, was approached to complete the unfinished symphony by Mahler; he preferred not to attempt adventure (musicologist Deryck Cooke did the job), but his arrangements were especially useful to students of his composition courses. Here again, the piano, even with four hands, shows what could be called the vibrating frame of Lamento that is this symphonic fragment. The poignant echo of madness Fourteenth from Shosta’s friend.

Shostakovich*: Symphony No. 14 (set for soprano, bass, piano and percussion performed by the composer) – Unfinished Sonata for violin and piano – Four parts for piano – Fragments of Tenth Symphony by Mahler set for four-handed piano by Shostakovich. Nicolas Stavy, piano; with Ekaterina Bakanova, soprano; Alexandros Stavrakakis, bass; Florent Jodelet, percussionist; Sueye Park, violin; Cedric Tiberghien, piano. 1 CD Bus BIS-2550.

* The cover uses the English spelling “Shostakovich”. We regret that the brochure does not provide a French translation (or the original French version) of the sung text.

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