April 3, 2018
Shostakovich was recognized from an early age as one of Russia’s great composers. He completed his first symphony at 19 and by 26, his film scores, Cello Sonata and first string quartet were admired. His opera, Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk, played for nearly two years to rave reviews … until one day in 1936 when Joseph Stalin was in the audience.
The next morning, the headline in Pravda read, Muddle instead of Music. The article claimed his music was too formalistic, not nationalistic enough. This was during “The Great Purge,” a period between 1934-37 when millions of Russian citizens were imprisoned, executed or sent to the Gulag never to be heard from again. This kind of public criticism could have had the same result for Shostakovich.
Thus began a lifetime of living in fear.
Shostakovich had already completed his 4th Symphony but with such frightening criticism preceding the premiere, he felt it best to cancel. Instead he began work on another symphony in the hope of regaining the favor of the authorities. Symphony No. 5 premiered in 1937 and was an enormous success. For a time, Shostakovich could continue his work. In 1948, he would suffer another round of criticism – much more severe.
When we perform the symphony on April 29 and May 6, we will try to portray the vast spectrum of emotion present in this work – extreme sadness, painful loneliness, fevered aggression, exuberant triumph – with the goal of bringing our audience with us to those powerful places where only music can take us.
I adore our audience!
Late last year, Simon Sperl (our fabulous new executive director) and I met a few members of our loyal audience at Caribou Coffee on Lake Street in Wayzata. What a treat! As conductor, I see the audience as an entity but rarely get a chance to get to know them individually. After the meeting, I really look forward to the third Monday of each month to get to know more of them.
Here’s a few stories about who we met:
Wendy goes to 80 artistic events a year! She ushers for various groups and attends events of many other groups, including Jungle Theater, SPCO, MN Orch, etc. I am deeply honored to have the WSO included on her list of the concerts she chooses.
Minnetonka Mike came by too. He walked in playing the harmonica! I recognized him right away because he makes it a point to find me at our after-concert receptions. His memory for our concerts and my verbiage is uncanny. I wish I had that kind of recall.
“I sell stuff,” he said. “But I sell it eyeball to eyeball.” Amazon, NOT!
As I write this, I am smiling because of the wonderful dialogue we shared for two hours.
Simon and I feel so fortunate to be part of this organization that celebrates collaboration with community and audience.
Hoping to see you at Caribou on Monday, January 21 from 12:00 noon until 2:00 pm – coffee is on us, no matter how fru-fru it is!
Years ago when I was conducting family concerts for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, I had the idea to ask Arctic Explorer, Ann Bancroft, to narrate Wolf Tracks by Beintus, a piece similar to Peter and the Wolf except in this one, the wolf protected. I had a 50/50 chance Ann would say yes so I gathered my confidence and made the call. Without any hesitation she said, “Sure.”
Her response was the same when I contacted her last Spring to be our special guest for our November 19th concert.
Currently, her international team of eight women is exploring major rivers of the world through the program, ACCESS WATER that seeks to create awareness of our collective need to protect and preserve our water.
She is my hero not only because of her physical strength and mental fortitude but also because she is a believer in her own dreams and, through her commitment to education, encourages others to follow theirs.
Our concert will feature music inspired by water. Large screens will project images as Ann narrates their significance.
We know her inspiration will impact those in the audience as well as 55 string students who will join the orchestra to perform Water Night by Eric Whitacre.