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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | New Boston Symphony Shostakovich Tugs At The Heart

By Norman Lebrecht on March 29, 2019

Dmitri Shostakovich: 6th and 7th symphonies (Deutsche Grammophon)

★★★★☆
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The sixth and seventh symphonies are central to the composer’s work, in both senses of the term. Written in 1939 and 1941, they develop the method that Shostakovich invented in the fifth symphony of delivering two messages at the same time — public optimism to fool the commissars and private anxiety to express what the audience was experiencing under Stalin’s terror.

The sixth, written as the Soviet Union was signing its notorious alliance with Nazi Germany, opens with an ominous phrase from Mahler’s tenth symphony, which Shostakovich had neither heard nor read. Brisk, bold and barely half an hour long, it intermingles tremulous string passages with reckless piccolo riffs and a general screw-it-we’re-dead-tomorrow attitude.

The seventh, written in dual defiance of the German bombardment of Leningrad and Stalin’s unrelenting oppression, is an hour and twenty minutes of in-your-face resistance – one man’s shout for a hundred musicians and millions of victims. If I have a small reservation about the Boston Symphony’s playing under Andris Nelsons, it is that they lack the ragged edges that Shostakovich might have expected to hear in music of such half-blinded rage. Russian orchestras leave blood on the floor after playing Shostakovich 7. Boston leaves, at most, tissues.

This is a small caveat, however. The Nelsons cycle is proving epochal, a must-have guide to the works of this great master. The present pairing comes with a bonus — his 1939 incidental music to Shakespeare’s King Lear, richly evocative and enjoyable.

LUDWIG VAN TORONTO

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Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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Ludwig Van Toronto

CRITIC'S PICKS | 10 Concerts You Absolutely Need To See In Toronto This Month (June 10 – 29)

By Joseph So on June 10, 2019

Classical music, opera, theatre and dance events happening in and around Toronto for the week of June 10 – 29.
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THE SCOOP | Man Disrupts Choir By Blowing A Whistle During Concert

By Anya Wassenberg on June 13, 2019

Newly released video captures a bizarre incident in Toronto where a man entered a choral performance and began blowing a whistle.
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SCRUTINY | National Ballet's 'Physical Thinking' A Little Short, But Positively Satisfying

By Paula Citron on June 3, 2019

A program devoted to the choreography of William Forsythe is a sound idea, but the triple bill evening needed one more piece.
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