Symphony no 12 in D minor, opus 112 (The Year of 1917) – Dmitri Shostakovich

by richibi

assault-on-the-kremlin-in-1917-1951.jpg!Large

 Assault on the Kremlin in 1917 (1951)

               Konstantin Yuon

                    __________

the Twelfth Symphony of Shostakovich, 
“The Year of 1917”, is a lot more of the 
Eleventh, “The Year 1905”, both 
commissioned, both celebrating 
significant events of the Russian 
Revolution, both therefore steeped in 
references that now elude many who 
aren’t Russian, and certainly those who
generations elsewhere later never lived 
through these particularly local events 

but the Twelfth is shorter by nearly 
half, thankfully, I also found it to be 
unconvincing, plastic, formulaic, 
neither original, nor enthusiastic, 
tedious and uninspired, musically 
speaking, of course

or maybe I’m just getting cranky

also a music honouring a system that 
is now defunct, debunked, discredited, 
couldn’t long survive but historically
among the works of an otherwise 
extraordinary composer, think of 
Confederate monuments still standing 
in the Southern United States, or of 
those of oppressors of First Nations, 
for instance, in our very own Canada, 
though these might’ve been  
sculpted by even Michelangelos,   
an irresolvable cultural confusion,
predicament


the works are programmatic, both 
have titles to indicate a particular
referent, and should be evocative 
of, therefore, those situations, 
music, in other words, for the 
movies, but in these instances, 
without the movie, I’ve talked 
about that before 

all the movements also have titles,
apart from the time signatures, 
adagio, presto, allegro, the like,
the Eleventh, “The Palace Square”, 
“The 9th of January”, “Eternal
Memory”, and “Tocsin”, a warning 
bell

the Twelfth, “Revolutionary Petrograd”,
“Razliv”, “Aurora”, and “The Dawn of 
Humanity”

I couldn’t help but refer to Beethoven’s
Sixth Symphony, the “Pastoral”, to
compare identical musical intentions,
his five movements are “Awakening of 
cheerful feelings upon arrival in the 
countryside“, “Scene by the brook“, 
Merry gathering of country folk“,
Thunder, Storm“, and “Shepherd’s 
song; cheerful and thankful feelings 
after the storm

compare the use of the flute, the 
oboe, the bassoon, Beethoven isn’t 
using any obbligatos yet, solos for 
particular instruments, but you still 
get the feeling of country folk 
dancing, spring taking hold


let me point out that you’ll have to be
patient with the link to the Sixth
Symphony, it’s Japanese, I think, and
will require you to push the arrow in 
the middle of the screen, then wait 
out a few movie ads, which’ll nearly
confound you, but then you’ll get the
best ever Sixth Symphony I’ve ever 
heard, Herbert von Karajan at the 
helm of the Berliner Philharmoniker,
proving why he is still Zeus among
conductors

and his thumbs, goodness, anyone 
with thumbs like that is bound to 
change history


R ! chard

psst: incidentally, Yevgeny Mravinsky 
          was the conductor, equally 
          illustrious, who premiered 
          Shostakovich’s Twelfth in 1961, 
          the same conductor as in the 
          presentation here

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