18 February 2013

From the vaults

Once upon a time, in 2007 . . . viz. the Shostakovich Fifth Symphony.

The finale of the Fifth I have found a curious question. Recalls the Bigendian/Smallendian debate in some ways . . . And the drivers are so ephemeral. Theres the characteristically colorful story in Testimony (and how do we know thats actually Shostakovich talking?) The typically unfathomable Shostakovich deadpan of the broken metronome remark. The postcard returned to Celibidache with the laconic “Да” (which, again, knowing both the state of operation of the Soviet postal system, and how some missives wound up on desks of the KGB and never actually reached recipients . . . I just cannot think it much of a document to go on).

Upon this insufficient foundation, in part, we have [ fast ending = triumph / slow ending = dissident sarcasm ] as something of a “line in the sand,” in some quarters.

I dont have the firm answer, obviously. But two of my asides are:

1.) Shostakovich was in probably the tightest of a number of tight spots he experienced throughout his career. Too much depended on the piece making the right impression in the right quarters; he was not in the position here, to take the musical risk of (say) the Ninth later on during the war. So, Im not sure this was the occasion for him to play such a daring card. Obviously, I cannot say one way or the other, absolutely.

2.) I consider how broad the ending of the Leningrad Symphony is, and how unambiguously triumphant. I dont think it at all a slam dunk that breadth of tempo in the finale of the Fifth, maps onto scornful dissidence.

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