Sunday, January 15, 2012

In Praise of Shostakovich and Myself

The other day I got a Great Courses catalogue in the mail. These are wonderful opportunities to brish up on areas of little or long ago exposure, like the basic star map, or explore new curiosities, like how and when to serve what wine. I am always curious what is being offered, so, with no intention of buying a class )I have a star map and I serve whatever wine I happen to have), I peeked through.

One class was called “The Thirty Greatest Orchestral Works.” Being wrapped up in classical music (since I was a kid), I just had to look (having written a book). I found myself agreeing with most of the lecturer’s choices and was particularly pleased to see Shostakovich represented not once, but twice, with his Fifth and Tenth Symphony.

The Fifth is an obvious choice to me: it was the single most performed symphony of all that were written in the 20th Century. But the Tenth is a more obscure choice. Although in my book I called it his masterpiece. I thought of it as the Fifth in Retrospect – filled with sadness, anger, pathos, self-determination and ultimately joy. I like to think that perhaps I had a little influence on the decision makers with my own assessment.

Well, if we don’t toot our own horns, who will?

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