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David Dalle
Thursday August 10th, 2017 with David Dalle
Shostakovich and war: his tragic, epic, and ultimately ambivalent 8th symphony. Philip Glass. Kinan Azmeh.

In 1943, Shostakovich was at probably the zenith of his global fame, his 7th symphony was shot into the stratosphere by government propaganda and media on both sides of the Atlantic. Used to solidify and celebrate the new unexpected alliance between the Soviet Union and the Western allies against Hitler. Shostakovich himself stood quite apart from all this, and he spent the summer of 1943 working on a new symphony. It was premiered in November that year. Though the 7th symphony is most famously associated with the siege of Leningrad and the Nazi invasion of the USSR, I believe his 8th symphony more accurately portrays the true horror of the genocidal war being waged on the Eastern Front. The 8th symphony occupies a terrifying, and even bleak landscape, particularly its long opening movement, predominantly a sombre slow movement which builds to a terrifying crescendo before slowly dissipating into nothing. It is followed by two short and fast movements, the first a grotesque parody, like a demented dance of death, the second fast movement is intense violence which leads directly into a desolate and grief-stricken slow movement. The slow 4th movement gives way to the finale where the c minor resolves into c major. However, this is a far cry from that most famous of c-minor-to-major symphonies, Beethoven's 5th. There is no great triumph, but a slow grasping towards something, ending the symphony in deep ambivalence. Stalin was very disappointed in the new symphony, by the fall of 1943, it was clear to all that Hitler would be defeated, his armies were permanently on the defensive being pushed westwards. Stalin expected and wanted a triumphant symphony. But this was a tyrant who had absolutely zero concern for the lives of his subjects. Millions of Soviet citizens had already died and millions more were still to die before the war was over, hardly something to celebrate for Shostakovich. Since Shostakovich had been massively hyped as the musical voice of Soviet resistance and resilience, Stalin did not take any action towards Shostakovich, that would wait until after the war. The 8th symphony was played and little celebrated, and shelved for more than a decade after the war. However, this is one of his greatest works. A glorious human achievement in the darkest times. We will hear the great Soviet and Shostakovich interpreter Yevgeny Mravinsky, principal conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic for 50 years, who was the dedicatee of the 8th symphony and gave its premiere as well as the premiere of several other of Shostakovich's symphonies. He remains one of the greatest interpreters of Shostakovich and his recordings of the 8th are unmatched.
Kinan Azmeh - Elastic City - Kinan Azmeh
Atop the Camel, Krishna
Kinan Azmeh - Elastic City - Kinan Azmeh
Hawniyaz - Hawniyaz - Harmonia Mundi
Great and Wondrous Mystery
Yeznig Zegchanian - Forty Martyrs: Armenian Chanting From Aleppo - Lost Origins Sound Series
Symphony No. 8 in c minor Op. 65
Dmitri Shostakovich/Leningrad Philharmonic, Yevgeny Mravinsky - Symphony No. 8 - Philips Classics
Listen to the other broadcasts in the cycle
Symphony no 1:
Symphonies 2 & 3:
Symphony no. 4:
Symphony No. 5:
Symphony No. 6:
Symphony No. 7:
Philip Glass transcribed Michael Riesman/Christopher Bowers-Broadbent - Trivium - ECM
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