blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Rejoicing under threat

At a rather dilapidated former Catholic church near our house, now called "Saint Brigid's Centre for the Arts" but still full of crucifixes, Madonnas and Stations of the Cross, an orchestral concert took place, conducted by Matthew Larkin. It was the penultimate performance of the season by the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra, a local orchestra of "advanced music students, semi-professional musicians, and serious amateurs ..." In the ranks of the orchestra I recognised the man who runs The Leading Note music store, a woman we used to meet at singing parties and some denizens of the Music and Beyond festival. Four young men (high school or university students) manned the percussion section and more youngsters as well as a few grey haired senior citizens sat among the strings. I approve of that kind of mix.

They played Beethoven's Egmont Overture, Dvorak's Serenade for Winds and Strings (Op. 44) and Shostakovich's 5th Symphony.

"In the finale," said Shostakovich, at the time it was written (the height of the Stalinist régime), "the tragically tense impulses of the earlier movements are resolved in optimism and the joy of living." After his death a memoir was published that described it differently:
The rejoicing is forced, created under threat. It's as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying, 'Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing,' ... You have to be a complete oaf not to hear that.
It is tremendously exciting music. The last movement reconsiders the fierce, wistful or ironic themes from the previous movements, making prominent use of drums, flute, harp, piano and cymbals, builds to a dissonant climax, and ends, gritting its teeth, so to speak, in the major key. I was on the edge of my seat!

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