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Ludwig Van
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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

SCRUTINY | Margaret Trudeau Charms In Candid Autobiographical ‘A Certain Woman Of An Age’

By Paula Citron on September 21, 2019

For ninety minutes, the charming Trudeau reveals the good, the bad and the ugly, and it is compelling stuff with name-dropping galore and delicious insider tidbits. Yet at all times Trudeau is direct, honest and open, and that is how she wins our hearts and minds.
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IN MEMORIAM | Jessye Norman, International Opera Icon, Dead At 74

By Stephan Bonfield on September 30, 2019

It is with great sadness that we report on the death of the great American soprano Jessye Norman, September 30, 2019.
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SCRUTINY: Powerful Performances And Intelligent Programming Elevate TSO’s Evening Of Brahms And Strauss

By Stephan Bonfield on September 28, 2019

The TSO shines under guest conductor Donald Runnicles in a program of Brahms and Strauss, with special note — and a standing ovation — for oboe soloist Sarah Jeffrey.
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