Symphony no 8 in C minor, opus 65, “Stalingrad”- Dmitri Shostakovich

by richibi


     “Sky and Water II (1938) 

           M.C. Escher


stepping into Shostakovich’s Eighth 
Symphony was to me like knocking 
at someone’s apartment in the same 
building but on the wrong floor, 
everything was the same but 

that had happened to me once before 
when I‘d moved from the third floor  
of my building, facing the laneway, 
overlooking the dumpsters and the 
derelicts, I used to say, cause I liked 
the alliteration, just above the parking 
lot, too few levels up, that spewed 
exhaust from caridling there, 
interminablyespecially early 
mornings in winter

to the twelfth floor, with a view of the 
mountains from my living room and
of the ocean from my bedroom, where
I’ve always said I see God/dess every
morning, every day

the floor plan was identical but for 
being reversed, the living room on 
the left, and the kitchen, in the first, 
the bedroom straight ahead of you
as you entered, the living room on 
the right, and the kitchen, the 
bedroom straight ahead of you as 
you entered, in the second

I called it going through the looking 
glass, where indeed dumpsters and 
derelicts had turned to daily sightings 
of God/dess, a truly transcendental 

this had happened as well when I 
went from atheism, crossedI said, 
the bridge of faith, but that’s 
another story

Shostakovich’s Eighth is indeed a 
reiteration of previous statements,
patterns are becoming familiar, the 
strident opening subsiding into 
plaintive laments is recognizable, 
links to the Fifth and the Seventh 
are evident, so are some of the, 
eventually, longueurs, as we say 
in French, excessive histrionics, 
to my mind

but the third movement here is 
nevertheless a stunner, worth 
the price of admission, I’ve been 
humming that one since in my, 
though interrupted, sleep  

here‘s a counterpart, however, 
a piece I found serendipitously 
as I pondered a response to a 
cousin who’d asked about 
Classical guitar, a piece written 
in 1939, the time Shostakovich
was writing his Fourth, though
protectively then retracted, by 
a Spanish composer, in another 
part of the world, but equally 
constricted, by Franco, a 
contemporary autocrat, who 
demanded art supportive of his 
particular political apparatus

Joaquín Rodrigo – but he’s 
another story – wrote his 
magisterialConcerto de 
Aranjuez“, an utter triumph, a 
strictly Classical composition, 
three movements, with all the 
tempi in the right order,
celebrating a palace, Aranjuez,
historically significant to the 
Spanish, like Versailles is to 
the French, thereby sidestepping 
the local tyrant’s official censure 
by skirting that ruler’s autocratic
political proscriptions

but Spain wasn’t massively 
obliterating its people either, 
as Stalin and Hitler were 
theirs then, a crucial 

in either case, these poets are  
witnesses to history, and have 
survived through their particular
statements, to tell individually,
and idiosyncratically, each his 
redoubtable story, each of 
which is forcefully telling, and 


R ! chard