“Symphony no 6 in B minor, opus 54” – Dmitri Shostakovich

by richibi

great-expectations-ussr-pavilion-on-1939-new-york-world-s-fair-1947.jpg!Large

Great Expectations. USSR pavilion on 1939 New York World’s Fair (1939) 

    Veniamin Kremer

       ____________

 “I hope that these few preparatory words 
can give you an insight that may permit 
you to experience this strangely 
heterogeneous work as a single entity, 
flashpoint in musical history”, says
Leonard Bernstein, somewhat, 
admittedly, grandiloquently, in an indeed
thrilling introduction to Shostakovich’s
Sixth Symphony in B minor, opus 54

that he reiterates several of the points 
that I earlier brought up does me no
disservice, coming especially from a
person of such high quality, pedigree, 
in the musical world, I’m abashed, 
bashful, indeed blushing, that my 
humble insights have been so 
eminently corroborated

but I cannot second his enthusiasm
for Shostakovich’s Sixth Symphony
a failed, to my mind, entity, a long 
introductory lament that lingered 
long after its “best before” date, 
followed by indifferent, though 
perhaps energetic, yet unrelated,
final movements, the instrumentation 
might be, admittedly, brilliant, the 
Shostakovichian precise array of 
sounds, but the sum is less than the 
parts, I think, I took home only 
confusion, as did the crowd, 
apparently, at its first presentation, 
Leningrad, November 21, 1939,
Mravinsky conducting, wow, an
even more convincing argument,
maybe, than Bernstein’s, however 
rousing, interpretation

for your information, I’ve included
Tchaikovsky’s Sixthaccording to
Bernstein intimately related, he 
explains, to Shostakovich’s Sixth

you’ll note how different, however, 
these two symphonies are compared 
to how similar in so many respects 
Beethoven’s and Shostakovich’s 
Fifths are, Tchaikovsky’s Sixth is
manifestly more Romantic than
Revolutionary 

but imagine Tchaikovsky starting and 
ending with an adagio, how audacious, 
daring, though not particularly efficient, 
I think, not especially successful, the 
adagio lamentoso seems to me 
anticlimactic after the vigorous allegro 
molto vivacewhich receives a 
thunderous applause, the last 
movement, the lamentoso, however 
lovely, doesn’t rise to the heights of a 
proper finale for this forerunner’s
contagious ebullience, sounds rather 
like an encore, melodramatic and a bit 
pretentious

or maybe I’m just getting cranky


sooner or later though, the conundrum 
of adagio bookends will be resolved, 
someone inevitably will do it, like
finding the square on the hypotenuse, 
unearthing warped space, discovering 
a way to recapture carbon dioxide and 
make it work for us, as trees would do 
if we let them, someone always exceeds, 
miraculously, our expectations, watch 
for it, dare I say, here

R ! chard

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