For the next two years, the Colorado Chamber Players will be celebrating Dmitri Shostakovich, one of Russia’s most fascinating and complex composers.
The chamber music of composer Dmitri Shostakovich is powerful and affects both performers and audiences deeply. Similar to the Colorado Chamber Players’ Haydn Quartet Slam several years ago, our ensemble enjoys digging into the psyche of a single composer. We’re excited to share Shostakovich’s chamber music with you!
As an American musician, I admire the chamber music of Shostakovich in all of its complexity, as it expresses every possible emotion in the human spectrum. Although I have not experienced the degree of oppression and censorship imposed on Shostakovich’s Soviet Russian upbringing, I can sense the influence Communistic culture and politics had on his music. Born under Russian Tsars, Shostakovich witnessed the Russian Revolution as a child and grew up in the shadow of the new Soviet Union. He learned to survive under Josef Stalin’s regime, falling in and out of favor with the dictator. Throughout his career, he knew the fear of punishment, imprisonment, poverty, and death. Shostakovich also knew the power of music as both a form of political resistance and an expression of hope.
Composing behind the Iron Curtain, Shostakovich was often forced to write symphonies and operas in a particular style dictated by Stalin. He was told: end big, use lots of percussion, and end in a major key. The composer complied -with his symphonies- but his chamber music was another story. In particular, the quartets are considered a musical autobiography.
Shostakovich wrote many of his string quartets in secrecy, with a harmonic plan based on Bach’s “Well Tempered Clavier”. It was in the quartets that he finally felt free to express his innermost thoughts and ideas. I find his chamber music to be truer to the composer?s personality and heartfelt emotions- and reflect his personal experience- than his larger works. Many of his quartets waited to be published until after Stalin?s death in 1953.
Another great Russian composer, Sergei Prokofiev, made very different decisions than did his friend Shostakovich. Prokofiev lived abroad for twenty years, in both Paris and the USA; he returned home in 1936. We’ve included some of Prokofiev?s chamber music as an interesting comparison between these two Russian geniuses.
The Colorado Chamber Players will explore the complete chamber music of Dmitri Shostakovich in our 2015-17 seasons, along with other cultural partners in Colorado. I encourage you to attend as many programs as possible in the Shostakovich Celebration, and experience the extraordinary output of one of the 20th century’s greatest talents. Join us!