part of track
Dmitry Shostakovich (1906-1975) was probably the
last great Russian composer who continued developing ideas of monothematism and
the standard pattern of symphonic cycle.
His 15 symphonies are very different, but at the same
time these monumental works can
be considered movements of one mega composition called "The Musical
Annals of the 20th Century". Shostakovich's fascination with
Beethoven and Mahler determined his preferences in many cases.
Symphony No. 8, Op. 65, was composed in 1943 during
the siege of Leningrad. The siege lasted for a total of 900 days, from
September 8, 1941, until January 27, 1944. Hundreds of thousands of defenders of
the former Russian capital were killed by invading German forces, or died from
starvation. Many corpses remained unburied for weeks. They were
scattered on the streets at the very center of the city and many of these dead
bodies became the only food for people who were still alive. The Second
World War and the communist terror were the most profound experiences of the
composer. Today his music has become popular and we can enjoy it sitting
in our cozy houses somewhere in California or
Switzerland and speculate with a glass of superb red wine about Shostakovich's
involvement in communist propaganda. Of course, this wine is not the
blood of over 20 million Russians shed on the land of many European countries to
liberate them from fascism, and the music by Shostakovich is not a Communion.
As with the Seventh Symphony, war's stern events are
imprinted with colossal, tragically
generalized force in Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8. At the same time, the
Eighth Symphony carries more intimacy; its emotional implication is
presented more concretely, more exaggerated in its genuinely tragic expression.
The First movement is so essential, that it itself
could be considered a symphony or at least a symphonic poem inside the symphony.
The musical language is very restrained, sometimes even ascetic, which makes the
impact of the music more powerful. This work is the
composer's diary, his confession. You hear his very intimate thoughts, his
experiences and hopes.
The Second movement is a grotesque scherzo. It
sounds very similar to Shostakovich's first opera "The Nose".
Grotesqueness and a theater of absurdities are common artistic means to discuss
taboo subjects, for example - to portray a regime of terror or the sick
ambitions of world leaders. This tradition was inherited by Shostakovich
When you hear the Third movement, you understand that
Leningrad will never submit. This music, placed by the composer in
the very center of the symphony, represents its main
character. The third movement is written in the simple three-part form
with a solemn march
in the middle as an anticipation of the eventual victory. The iron will,
unity and confidence
are expressed in the first and the third sections of this three-part form by a
mechanical exhausting run, which builds up to the major culmination of the
symphony by the end of the third movement.
It passes attacca to the Fourth, which is an equivalent
of the slow, commonly second movement of the symphonic cycle. Written in
the ancient form of passacaglia - variations on the bass theme ostinato - the
forth movement is the lyrical climax of the symphony. The mechanical
repetitions of the third part were replaced here by the very restrained basso
The Major key was reserved mostly for the Finale - the
Fifth movement. This is not a military or a funeral march, but very
cheerful music, occasionally a waltz. It is an anticipation of the
post-war changes and humanism, which eventually will prevail.
The perpetum mobile and tutti texture of the third
movement coexist in the symphony with numerous solos in four other parts.
This idea of solos is developed and culminates in the coda of the fifth
movement. It symbolizes the blossoming of individualism - a prophesy and
an innermost wish by Shostakovich.
Fedoseyev developed the USSR TV and Radio Large
Symphony Orchestra for 26 years into one of the best Russian orchestras and made
it internationally known by touring, before he was appointed as a principal
conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in 1997.
Fedoseyev also conducts leading orchestras in Germany (Orchester
des Bayrischen Rundfunks, RSO Stuttgart, Staatsorchester Hamburg), in France (Orchestre
National de France, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France), in Italy,
Scandinavia and in Switzerland. The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra
appointed him as their first guest conductor.
Fedoseyev lived in Leningrad during the siege. It
places his interpretation of the Eighth
Symphony by Shostakovich in a special category of personal experiences. It
that Symphony No. 8 was dedicated to and premiered by Evgeni Mravinsky in
Moscow, in 1943. He was a musical mentor and patron of Fedoseyev.
Fedoseyev inherited from his teacher such virtues of the conducting art as
perfect ensemble and balance in sound, discipline and the perfectionist's
approach. For those who attended his concerts, they will remain etched in
their memory for a lifetime. Imagine a great Russian orchestra
performing masterpieces from the Russian repertoire under the baton of a
legendary Russian conductor. It can't get much better!
Symphony No. 8 in C minor, Op. 65
- Adagio – 24:21
- Allegretto – 6:32
- Allegro non
troppo – 6:28
- Largo – 8:37
- Allegretto – 12:57
Total time – 59:06
The USSR TV and Radio Large Symphony Orchestra
Conductor - Vladimir Fedoseev
cover painting "Suprematist Painting" by Malevich
Recorded live at the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory on
May 5, in 1985.
Recording engineer - Shakhnazarian
Cover Design by Evgeni Kostitsyn