Saturday, January 17, 2015

Does It Get Any Better Than Mendelssohn, Mozart, And Shostakovich

After a brief break, it is back to the Houston Symphony Orchestra's concert schedule for the 2014-2015 season with a blockbuster program tonight.  Mrs. B and I will be in Houston's Jones Hall that features a concert of wonderful music of Mendelssohn, Mozart and Shostakovich.   Our world class orchestra will be conducted by our dynamic young exciting director Andres Orozco-Estrada.

Andres Orozco-Estrada will be leading the world class Houston Symphony Orchestra
The program starts out with a concert overture that I will be hearing for the first time [live] "The Fair Melusina".  It is a wonderful concert overture, a typical Mendelssohn  piece with beautiful melodies.  What a way to open the concert with one of my favorite composers, Felix Mendelssohn.

Then the quintessential classical composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is featured with one of his 27 piano concertos - his double concerto - concerto #10.  I think Mozart's 9th piano concerto [the 'Jenume'] elevated the genius Mozart to greatness in this genre.  He followed that great concerto with his unique and delightful concerto for two pianos and orchestra.  From one of my top three composers [along with Beethoven and JS Bach] will be played one of my favorite piano concertos.  How great will it be with two grand pianos on the Jones Hall stage.  This concerto for two pianos is in E-Flat Major with three movements: 1.Allegro, 2. Andante and 3. Rondo-allegro.

From the Houston Symphony Orchestra website: "Twin sisters Christina and Michelle Naughton share the Jones Hall stage to perform Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos. Watch and listen in awe as the duo exchanges musical dialogue across the two pianos in this light and playful concerto".

NoteAs you will notice in the video of the third movement of the Mozart double piano concerto, and as I have stated before on this blog, because there is more than one soloist, they will both have the music to see, which differentiates from a single concerto, where the soloist almost always plays by memory without the music.

After the intermission will be Dmitri Shostakovich' dramatic and intense Symphony #12 in D-minor, known as "The Year of 1917." 

Dmitri Shostakovitch  "The Year of 1917"
While Shostakovich in many of his works was out of favor of the brutal Russian Soviet government, he got back in favor in the 1960's as he was forced to join the Communist Party and his 12th symphony was supposedly in dedication to Vladimir Lenin and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

But we have this from musicweb: "Over the years since Shostakovich's death came Testimony (Solomon Volkov's contentious “Memoirs of Shostakovich”, a then unsubstantiated exposé of the Soviet), glasnost, the fall of the Wall, and the gradual emergence of the appalling truth about the Soviet “experiment”.

"The West rediscovered Shostakovich, as a composer of immense integrity, courage and cunning, who had distilled the character of “Janus-Poulenc” into a technique for both survival (“rendering unto Caesar”, seemingly giving the authorities what they demanded) and expression (saying what he really, really wanted to his audience, the people)...  He spoke through a mask of conformism using musical codes, incorporating cross-references to his earlier works, quoting folk or popular songs, and using numerous technical devices.  Of this last, perhaps the easiest to spot is his use of two-note phrases to represent (usually) Stalin, the Oppressor, and three-note phrases to represent the oppressed population."

"It transpires that, considering the dreadful alternative, Shostakovich had no option but to sign up [with the Communist Party]... He was also required ... to produce, for the 22nd. Party Congress, a new symphony celebrating Lenin's victory of October 1917.  Lenin had a god-like reputation in Soviet culture, which made the task even harder, and more fraught with danger, for the antipathetic composer.  Sick at heart, Shostakovich struggled for inspiration, finding none in Lenin (whom Shostakovich knew to be every bit as wicked as Stalin) or his Bolshevik Revolution.  His inspiration eventually came, I think, from the sheer enormity of the challenge, apparently to glorify Lenin whilst perpetrating an an even greater subversion than the celebrated Fifth Symphony"

As in many of Shostakovich symphonies, you may not hear a lot of beautiful melodies, but what you will hear is a pensive, dramatic work.  What you will hear is great music.  This Symphony #12 is in D-minor with 4 movements: 1. Revolutionary "Petrogard", Allegro 2. Razliv,  Allegro-Adagio  3. Aurora, Scherzo and 4. 'The Dawn of Humanity', Allegretto.

As usual on the Tales classical music weekends, when Mrs. B and I go to hear our Houston Symphony, I like to share a sample of what we will be hearing tonight [Saturday].

Please turn up the volume and enjoy a little Mendelssohn, Mozart and Shostakovich.

Felix Mendelssohn: "The Fair Melusina" overture:

W. A. Mozart: Concerto For Two Pianos and Orchestra in E-Flat Major, Movement 3, Allegro:

Dmitri Shostakovitch: Symphony #12 in D-minor, Movement 4, Dawn of Humanity:


Jim said...

I don't believe they're us music. if they were, it would seriously interfere with their ability to see each other. And just think: if I'm wrong, you get to say “I told you so!” ~ Jim

Big Mike said...

okay big Jim :-) thanks

Big Mike said...

Bravo big Jim for you and all of the Houstin Symphony Orchestra and the great Maestro Estrada and the two sister soloists in the Mozart double concerto. As usual you were right- they didn't use the music- their communication with each other the Maestro and the whole orchestra was amazing - they played so magnificently - that is why they got such a warm and sustained standing ovation. And Wow was the Shostakovich so good and powerful and so awesomely interpreted by maestro Andres Orozco-Estrada and the Orchestra. How is that Symphony not played more often? I know Shostakovich other symphonies may be more popular- but my wife and I loved that one - it was like one of those powerful intense movies when you are like quiet and focused the whole movie. Loved it! Thank you Houston Symphony Orchestra!

Jim said...

That's the first time I've ever played that symphony in three decades of professional orchestral performing!

Big Mike said...

Wow, big Jim....we went to the pre-concert program where the principal Tuba player gave the talk on the Shostakovich symphony. He said that was the first time since 1970 that the Houston Symphony Orchestra has played that and the first time that Andres Orozco-Estrada has ever conducted it. So, in effect he said it was like a premiere performance. To me that even makes the awesome performance even a bigger statement on how great our world class Houston Symphony Orchestra is and how great director Andres Orozco-Estrada is.