Shostakovich – intermission

by richibi


  Five Angels Playing Musical Instruments (c.1487 – 1490) 

         Hans Memling


the Quartet for the End of Time by 
Messiaen, which I lauded in my last
transmission, is perhaps a wonderful 
place to take a break, an intermission,
from the central Shostakovich, mighty
and imperial as he is, perhaps even 
overbearing, compared to the more 
introspective meanderings of Messiaen, 
bird calls, philosophical, if more organic 
explorations, a radically different musical 
reaction to the tyrannical tribulations of 
Shostakovich, but not in the least less 
viable, convincing, you can decide 

Beethoven’s 14th String Quartet in
C# minor, here, seems an apposite
musical counterpart also, a model 
for the tortured movements, implicit 
in either other incendiary work

note how the several movements in
either quartet hold together neatly, like
a bespoke suit, made to order, you can 
follow the line of the cut in all of its 
detail, and the suit fits everywhere like, 
well, a glove

there are too many extra, unnecessary 
ruffles, flounces, frills, excess material
to distract from the essential garment 
up until now, to my mind, in Shostakovich, 
one gets lost in the kerfuffle, one drifts
away, all except for his Fifth Symphony

neither do the ebb and flow of the 
movements, from largo to prestissimo 
and throughout the tempo ledger, lead
to distinct, personal, statements from 
the individual parts in Shostakovich
as they do in MessiaenBeethoven
when they slip from one chapter to
the next

Shostakovich seems to return to, rely
on, the same, however magisterial  
technique – the guy ‘s an obvious 
symphonist, an orchestrator of 
instruments of the very highest order
– but with the same melodic matter
variations on a single complaint, too 
often reiterated to maintain rapt 
attention from start to finish, one

it might be noted that comparing 
string quartets and symphonies is
like comparing apples and oranges 

but listen to any Beethoven symphony
for an array of unforgettable musical 
airs, dances, dirges, marches, lyrical 
romps through Elysian fields, you’re 
transfixed through to the very end,
always, everywhere

nevertheless there is indeed the 
splendid, and thoroughly 
successful Shostakovich Fifth  

and alone, the first movement of his 
Seventh, which I’m still singing in 
the streets 

to eternally validate Shostakovich as
the greatest composer of the Twentieth
Century, along with Messiaen

R ! chard