Sheila Joynes's Musical Diary

Shostakovich 4th Symphony


CHANDOS Workshop Saturday 3rd September

Three times a year Chandos has a concert – November, March and May in general. In September we have a “workshop” day to work on a piece which our conductor considers outside the demands for a “normal” concert, though there have been several occasions when these works have later appeared on the schedule for performance anyway!

Shostakovich 4th Symphony was certainly a challenge. It wasn’t so much the notes. There were some tricky bits but in general the notes were reasonable. The rhythms and time changes and counting were, however, very challenging!

Stephen came along to the final run-through “performance” and thoroughly enjoyed it. His comment was that if there was a section he didn’t like, he knew if he just waited a few minutes, a nicer part would come along.

To quote from

“Shostakovich had been raked over the coals in an unsigned article in the leading Soviet Union newspaper, Pravda. Such uncredited articles were normally assumed to have the authority of Communist dictator Josef Stalin behind them. It appears that Stalin had gone to a performance of Shostakovich’s bawdy and musically adventurous opera “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District”, and found the subject matter appalling and the music rude. This was during the 1930s, when the artistic intelligentsia in Russia were quickly realizing that people who were disliked by “Uncle Joe” Stalin had a way of disappearing, never to be heard from again. Shostakovich knew what danger he was in, and he wisely withdrew his wide-ranging, dark, and at times hallucinogenic “Symphony No. 4” which was then in rehearsal “

One of the people departing from our workshop performance quietly commented “I think Stalin had a point!”