APROPOS 'LE DELUGE'
A book about Shostakovich,
reviewed by GEORGE BALCOMBE
This American book is a collection of programme notes for fifteen symphonies and six concertos
of the Russian composer. The book is equipped with a Chronology of Works; a Summary of Individual
Movement Forms; a Selected Bibliography and a CD Track Listing -- (for use with the Stockholm
Philharmonic Orchestra's CD of Shostakovich's Symphony No 5 conducted by Yuri Abronovitch.)
The book has an introductory section called Shostakovich's Musical Language. It also
sports a Postlude summarising the author's views of the composer and his works and of the
then prevailing Soviet oppression. Author David Hurwitz has clearly worked very hard indeed in
writing his programme notes for this book. However, le deluge of adjectives, adverbs,
similes and metaphors detract from the facts. So does the pseudo-psychoanalysis of Shostakovich's
life and music. Furthermore, the psycho thing interrupts David Hurwitz's own discourse about
the actual music.
To illustrate the programme notes about Shosta's Symphony 5 the Stockholm Philharmonic
Orchestra performs on the CD which comes with the book. As far as such matters can be decyphered
from a CD, the orchestra plays what is printed on the score. But it fails to play what is
not printed on the score -- that indescribable but vital symphonic essence.
PS Apropos le deluge mentioned above, the book informs us that 'there is plenty of
emotional variety in this symphony even before the finale bursts in, including triumph, despair,
violence, tranquility, innocence, mystery, vulgarity, and humor.' Isn't that wonderful! But
how on earth did Shosta ever find time to write the symphony?
Copyright © 31 August 2006
George Balcombe, London UK
Unlocking the Masters Series
Shostakovich Symphonies and Concertos
An Owner's Manual
Amadeus Press, 2006
ISBN 1-57467-131-6, ISBN13 9 781574 671315
vi+223 pages, paperback
Includes a full-length BIS Records CD