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When you speak music…

August 2nd, 2003 · No Comments

On July 21st, I was listening to All Things Considered on NPR and briefly caught a bit of Robert Siegel’s interview with Valery Gergiev, who conducted a new recording of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 “The Leningrad” with the combined Kirov Orchestra and Rotterdam Philharmonic. Today I looked on NPR’s web site and found the audio clip here

While I have studied piano, violin and guitar, and took many music lessons as a child, it is only recently, as an adult, that I have been desiring to learn more about music, its theory and history. I love its power and universality: how music transcends time and place, how music speaks. I want my children to love music and I am longing for music to be a part of me, a passion of my heart and a language of my life.

So when I heard a bit of this interview beginning on NPR, I stopped my housecleaning and listened. Today I listened again and took some notes. In the past year I have become a little more aware of St. Petersburg/Leningrad’s history and presence in the news today – as an ice skating fan (or actually, as the wife of an ice-skating addict :)) I watched the elegant Evgeni Pluschenko win the world championship with his program skated to “St. Petersburg 300”, performed again this June at a celebration of his city’s 300th anniversary . And another book I read this spring referenced a little of the sad spiritual history of the city. On the Web today I found more information about The War Symphonies here : “tombstones for the victims of Stalin”.

According to Gergiev, “The Leningrad” was performed during WWII, by musicians who were “hardly eating anything….close to immobility…as heroes they played this legendary performance.”

When asked about the “violent horrible version of Bolero” theme in the symphony, Gergiev replied that it “has to look like…totally heartless, a machine which will crush everything in its might….he saw his own country going to become a concentration camp…I hear machine-like…knock you out of your comfort.”

This “anthem of Soviet resistance” was smuggled via Iran to the West where it was performed in Britain and the United States. Gergiev explained the state of Russia at that time: “the horrors of 9/11…can you imagine four years of it?” Shostakovich, the conductor said, was “so full of protest, anger. spirit to resist, to speak about it, that this should never happen again….”

“…When you speak music you don’t ask questions”

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