Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Exciting 5th Symphony Of Shostakovich

It is that time once again when the fetching Mrs. B and I will be heading to Jones Hall on Saturday night to hear our world class Houston Symphony Orchestra directed by our great Maestro Andres Orozco-Estrada.  This concert program includes a world premier piece by Gabriela Lena Frank's "Conquest Requiem", and one of my favorite symphonies, Dmitri Shostakovich's exciting Symphony #5 in D minor.  The Allegro non troppo finale movement ends in an exhilarating, triumphant climax that I know [and I will predict now] will have us [the Jones Hall HSO concert goers] leaping to our feet with shouts of Bravo.

This from the Houston Symphony Orchestra website "Hear the world premiere of a major work by Houston Symphony Composer-in-Residence Gabriela Lena Frank as she unveils her Conquest Requiem, a multicultural work that interweaves traditional Latin and Meso-American texts with new passages by Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz.  Then discover Shostakovich’s thrilling Symphony No. 5, a gripping masterpiece sure to keep you on the edge of your seat."

Dmitri Shostakovich [1906 - 1975]
The Russian composer, Shostakovich, composed this 5th symphony, maybe his most popular, in 1937.  It was very well received at its debut, and still is beloved by concert goers today.  This dramatic, at times tense, at times peaceful, at times haunting, symphony in D minor was scored with the usual four movements: 1. Moderato - Allegro non troppo;  2. Allegretto;  3. Largo; and the exciting 4th movement, Allegro non troppo.  

As in most Shostakovich's symphonies, when you hear his fifth symphony,  you may not describe it as beautiful or melodic, but you probably will describe it as a wonderful exciting musical experience.

I cannot wait to see [and hear] how our great Maestro Orozco-Estrada interprets this masterpiece. 

In the following video, the late legendary Maestro, Leonard Bernstein, leads the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in this gripping performance.  The second movement begins at 18:14, the Largo movement begins at 23:46, and the Allegro non troppo finale begins at 40:10.

As usual when the fetching Mrs. B and I go to the symphony we like to give you part of what we are about to hear.  Please turn up the volume and play in full screen and enjoy the exciting 5th symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich.
 
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony #5 in D minor:


UPDATE: May 7, 2017
:  What a great experience and concert by the Houston Symphony [and symphony choir in the first piece] led by Maestro Andres Orozco-Estrada.  The first half of the concert program featured a moving and creative requiem choral piece by Gabriela Lena Frank - words by Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz, who were both in attendance and brought on stage at the conclusion to a warm standing ovation. Gabriela Frank, on stage before the playing of her piece, along with Maestro Andres, gave a detailed informative discussion of how she created the piece and the meaning of the piece. Special Kudos to Soprano Jessica Rivera and the Houston Symphony Chorus for a great performance.



HSO Musical Ambassador-Carlos Andres Botero
Then in the second half of the program was Shostakovich's gripping 5th symphony. This stirring masterpiece was masterfully led by our conductor Andres Orozco-Estrada. Bravo!  

This piece was made so much more meaningful and moving because of the pre-concert "prelude" talk given by the Houston Symphony's musical ambassador, Carlos Andres Botero. I knew how Dmitri Shostakovich was always under pressure because of the political situation [Communist] in the Soviet Union during his life and how he would fall in and out of favor [and in danger] with the Soviet authorities and how it affected his music, but I didn't realize how much of his life and the struggles of the people of Russia was incorporated in this 5th symphony.  I knew in the first movement how the mood would keep switching back from an intense struggle to a pleasant peacefulness, but never realized those peaceful softer phrases were about a woman he loved.  In the last movement ["fireworks" -as Carlos Andres Botero likes to say] Shostakovich would relate to the people of Russia how their struggle would continue and was continuing with the playing in the background by strings of the note A quickly over and over [I forget the exact number Maestro Botero said, but it was an incredible amount of times]. He said with a smile if you look at the musicians score [at the time of the repeated A's] it looks nothing like music, but something they have never seen before.  

Also, Carlos Andres Botero in his prelude talk noted how the opening of the symphony has sketches from Beethoven's 5th symphony ["fate knocking at the door"], and that in the second and third movements, came sketches from Berlioz' Carmen and Mahler.  This symphony commissioned by the Soviet government and premiered in 1937 in Leningrad to a rousing reception, was cleverly created by Shostakovich, to please both the Soviet authorities, and the people who were being oppressed at the same time.

Because of the insightful prelude talk by Maestro Botero, I was moved by Shostakovich' 5th symphony like never before. Maestro Andres Orozco-Estrada interpretation was gripping. He extended the climax by decreasing the speed as if to prolong the exhilarating ending as long as possible.   


Bravo, Houston Symphony Orchestra


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