<< -- 2 -- Patric Standford SHEER MODERNITY
The 21-year old was filled with exploratory musical as well as political fire.
The three short movements that precede the choral finale of October which sings the
praises of 'the Commune and Lenin' (We marched, and begged for work and bread, our hearts
gripped in a vice of anguish ...) are challenging; the first a mysterious, fascinating and
unsettling woven fabric of scales, the second with a voice later to become more familiar
[listen -- track 2, 0:00-1:11]
and the third a contrapuntal texture of amazing maturity
[listen -- track 3, 1:42-3:10].
And then more than 40 years later, the longer and still scorching settings that make up
the 14th Symphony, dedicated to Benjamin Britten (who was only 14 when October was first
heard) and given its western première at the 1970 Aldeburgh Festival. It is a cycle of poems
chosen to portray the idea of unjust and premature death, continuing that preoccupation
from his orchestration of Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death. Scored for soprano and
baritone, with strings and judiciously used percussion, there are eleven songs -- six to poems
by Apollinaire, two each by Lorca and Rilke, and one by Wilhelm Küchelbecker. Shostakovich
embraces serialism as comfortably and accessibly as did Britten, and his voice is as crystal
clear, succinct and orderly as ever.
Copyright © 17 February 2005
Patric Standford, Wakefield UK