Shostakovich described his Symphony No 8, written in 1943, as ‘an attempt to reflect the terrible tragedy of war.’
That was the official line. In reality, Shostakovich’s Eighth was a Requiem for all those who had suffered not just at the hand of the Nazis, but under the ruthless regime of the dictator Josef Stalin. The music reveals ugly truths with its mock grandeur and relentless claustrophobia. When the symphony finally discovers the ‘warm’ key of C major, it feels less like a victory and more like a lucky escape.
Marking 20 years since he began his twelve-year stretch as chief conductor in Bergen, Andrew Litton returns to the orchestra for this performance and is joined by his longstanding collaborator Vadim Gluzman for music by another Soviet composer. Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No 2 carries with it the transparency, tunefulness and directness of expression that was approved by same authorities who condemned Shostakovich’s music as torture. But Prokofiev’s gritty, engaging concerto is surely a little more cryptic than it would first appear…
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18.45: Andrew Litton in conversation with Peter Kates
Foto: Helge Skodvin