Music For The Day

The third movement from Symphony no. 7, “Leningrad”, Op. 60, by Dmitri Shostakovich:

 

I know many people dismiss the Leningrad symphony as wartime propaganda, and don’t rank it among one of Shostakovich’s better works, but I love this particular movement, especially in contrast to the famous, bombastic opening movement. The almost-alien, plangent, stark opening chords in the woodwind are to me very evocative of Russia, and of the desolation of a besieged city. I also find the way that Shostakovich has the woodwind cut out at the end of their opening phrase, leaving the strings to hold the note, to be a particularly effective trick of orchestration.

The later variations on the theme, embellished by the violins as a mournful dance, is also very moving.

It is also quite fun to follow along with the score on the YouTube video.

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3 thoughts on “Music For The Day

  1. Chris Allen August 9, 2012 / 1:10 AM

    I almost dislike this piece. The woodwind instrument at the start (was it a flute?) was just horrid, in my opinion. However, I really enjoyed the middle (string) section of the video. Am I correct in thinking that was what you were describing to above? Oh, by the way, I enjoyed your eccentric prose, almost poetical.

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    • belindasgallery August 9, 2012 / 11:03 AM

      I think Shostakovich deliberately scored the opening woodwind introduction to sound alarming, shrieking, off-key, disturbing and even slightly out-of-tune. I believe it is scored for clarinet, cor anglais, bassoon, piccolo and flute, but would have to check the score to confirm. I think he does a wonderful job of conjuring a desolate, bombed and beseiged landscape with this opening, setting up the string variations which follow and soften the phrase. The opening is designed to pull you outside your comfort zone, and I think Shostakovich accomplishes this remarkably well.

      The string section is very nice, with the various elegaic variations, I’m glad you liked this part. And then the strong restatement of the theme in the brass chorale, with undulating strings on top, is also quite powerful and indicative of military might or destruction. I do consider the “Leningrad” symphony to be an underappreciated work, I think it has a lot of merit.

      As always, thanks for reading and for your comments!

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      • Chris Allen August 9, 2012 / 11:49 AM

        Thanks for your follow-up comment. Your detailed description of the composer’s purpose for the piece was very educational. I’ve only listened to his 5th and 9th symphonies, but now I’m definitely going to listen to more of him in the future. Cheers.

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