SHOSTAKOVICH Orango Prologue, 4. Symphonie Salonen

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DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH

Prologue to »Orango«
World premiere recording

Symphonie No. 4
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Esa-Pekka Salonen
Int. Release 02 Jun. 2012
2 CDs / Download
0289 479 0249 2 2 CDs DDD GH2
Live Recording
Exclusive World Premiere Recording:
Sensational 80-Year Old Operatic Prologue Brought to Life


Lista de temas

CD 1: Shostakovich: Prologue To 'Orango'

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975)
Prologue to Orango

Orchestrated by Gerard McBurney

Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen

Jordan Bisch, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon

Ryan McKinny, Daniel Chaney, Todd Strange, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon

Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen

Ryan McKinny, Daniel Chaney, Todd Strange, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon

Michael Fabiano, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen

Michael Fabiano, Eugene Brancoveanu, Yulia van Doren, Daniel Chaney, Todd Strange, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon

Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen

Eugene Brancoveanu, Yulia van Doren, Jordan Bisch, Ryan McKinny, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon

Abdiel Gonzalez, Ryan McKinny, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon

Tiempo total de reproducción 31:58

CD 2: Shostakovich: Symphony No.4

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975)
Symphony No.4 in C minor, Op.43

Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen

Tiempo total de reproducción 1:04:32

. . . [it proved] fitting that Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic were chosen to present "Orango" to the world. The precision, the theatricality and the deep feeling for the music displayed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall suggested a real understanding of [the score] . . . In Salonen's hands, these 40 minutes felt not like an afterthought or fragment, but like the opening salvo of something significant . . . a short, gripping curtain-raiser . . . The tenors Michael Fabiano and Timur Bekbosunov were outstanding among a strong ensemble cast, and Eugene Brancoveanu was amusing in the truncated title role . . . [a] thrilling performance . . .

. . . an exciting work, in his best jazzy style. Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic bring equal commitment to the Fourth Symphony.

. . . ["Orango"]: Esa-Pekka Salonen's LA forces give it five-star treatment -- the rising American tenor Michael Fabiano is outstanding . . . [a] stupendous account of the bewildering Fourth [Symphony] . . .

. . . ["Orango"]: Esa-Pekka Salonen and the LA Philharmonic have great fun with it, and there are fine performances from Eugene Brancoveanu as Orango, Ryan McKinny as the Entertainer who shows him off, and Michael Fabiano as the dubious Zoologist who lectures about him . . . [Symphony no. 4]: Salonen conducts it with cool lucidity and a sense of remorseless logic . . . Salonen's fondness for clear textures is very much in evidence, and often admirable.

. . . it's flavorful, enjoyable stuff, and Esa-Pekka Salonen leads a zesty performance . . . a full-throated and deeply convincing rendition of the composer's Fourth Symphony.

The symphony and the "Orango" prologue make a revealing pair in conjunction with deeply insightful notes from director Peter Sellars . . . The symphony is given a beautifully paced performance that achieves, more than most, a strong sense of through line despite a deeply fractured musical narrative . . . every episode fully makes its points in this performance . . . ["Orango"]: Esa-Pekka Salonen and his Los Angeles cast perform the piece with a confidence that suggests they could have written it.

. . . indeed, one of Shostakovich¿s wildest mélanges of folk tunes, marches, terrifying outbursts and an orchestration that includes car horns and whistles among other things . . . It is ¿ in all aspects ¿ the composer¿s audacious and largely successful depiction of a world gone mad . . . [Symphony No. 4]: Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen chose the bleak and terrifying Fourth as almost the logical extension of the mood established in "Orango" . . . I think this is Grammy award stuff! The Los Angeles Philharmonic emerged under Salonen as, arguably, the best orchestra in the country and I personally think that, during his tenure, they were an amazing and formidable ensemble. The recording is amazing . . . All the vocalists in Orango and every single instrumentalist in both pieces are splendid. This is an essential recording for admirers of Shostakovich as well as for fans of Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Strongly recommended!

. . . [This recording is further evidence of Shostakovich's] versatility and amazing capacity for hard work . . . ["Orango"]: Salonen and the cast catch every stylistic twist, and leave us wanting more . . . [Symphony no. 4 is] conducted and recorded here with unsparing clarity . . .

. . . [a] significant release . . . The level of the vocalism is high . . . the lovely-voiced Russian-American soprano Yulia van Doren and trenchant, versatile Kazakh new-music tenor Timur Bekbosunov prove comfortable with and convincing in the phonetics -- a key factor, surely, in rendering Shostakovich's stage works authentically . . . Ryan McKinny's narrating Entertainer handles the lion's share of the music with a strong bass-baritone . . . Michael Fabiano's fine, clear tenor sounds healthy in the Zoologist's little operetta-flavored arioso . . . The Los Angeles Philharmonic plays with precision and daring, giving the ballet movements full, apt flair . . . a grippingly fine performance of the complexly structured Fourth Symphony . . . Salonen's reading -- and the crackerjack L.A. Phil percussion section -- are right on target here.

. . . ["Orango"]: The musical gags are just about nourishing enough to succeed without visuals, and the final hysteria whips the audience into a frenzy . . . The "Prologue" makes a curious yet first-rate companion to the mighty Shostakovich Four. Salonen's approach to this half-human, half-monster Symphony is well-calculated. He makes clear connections between material that can so often seem random in the adventure of the first movement, and makes sure everything can be heard in cataclysmic climaxes. The clarity of bass lines and percussion is aided by the sound team's excellent management of LA's Walt Disney Concert Hall . . . the LA recording adds much to our understanding of an extraordinarily complex giant.

. . . [Salonen] turns his penetrating musical intellect on the extraordinary Fourth Symphony, achieving the kind of skewed logic that some merely hint at. It's a "composerly" account in which every thematic connection, however oblique, has something to say. Clarity is forensic, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic achieving levels of precision that can . . . totally suspend disbelief. And rarely has the enormous final chapter of the piece achieved a more harrowing inevitability.

. . . die Werke [weisen] eine kühne Stilvielfalt auf, was Salonen differenziert herausarbeitet . . . Salonen [verliert] nie den Gehalt aus dem Blick, was nicht zuletzt das weltentrückte Morendo der Celesta am Ende der Vierten zeigt . . .

Schostakowitsch kontrastierte revueartige Abschnitte mit tiefmelancholischen Szenen, Protestmusik mit Opernpomp. Sein bewährter Witz und Spott blitzt immer wieder auf in dem rund 30-minütigen Prolog . . . [die Uraufführung dirigiert von Esa-Pekka Salonen fand] unter großem öffentlichen Interesse mit dem Los Angeles Philharmonic statt. So konnte für diese Ersteinspielung die überzeugende Premierenbesetzung genutzt werden, vorneweg der Bass Ryan McKinny als wuchtig-kolossaler Entertainer. Der agile Tenor Michael Fabiano mimt den aalglatten Zoologen. Plastisch zeichnet Dirigent Salonen die schablonenartigen Szenen nach, subtil gelingen den Sängern und Orchester ironische Sollbrüche, flankiert von beeindruckender kraftvoller Klangopulenz. Insgesamt ergibt sich ein sehr geschmeidiges Bild dieses imponierenden Livemitschnitts . . . [4. Symphonie]: Auch hier führt Salonen ruhigen Mutes durch die aufrüttelnde Partitur und formuliert Unaussprechliches.

. . . [der Schostakowitsch-Könner Esa-Pekka Salonen hält] sein ehemaliges Orchester zu einer so bruitistisch knalligen wie elegant flexiblen, dabei wie gemeißelten Interpretation an . . . [eine] programmatisch sinnvoll wie auch scharf klangziselierte [4. Sinfonie] . . . [Esa-Pekka Salonen] hat jetzt "Orango" mustergültig vitalisiert und befeuert.

. . . ["Orango"]: Ein echter Fund und eine gelungene Ersteinspielung . . .

Eine explosive Mischung ist dieser Live-Mitschnitt . . . das erhaltene "Orango"-Material ist ein Knaller . . . Das Los Angeles-Philharmonic unter Esa-Pekka Salonen musiziert kraftvoll und mit spürbarer Lust an der Neuentdeckung . . . Hervorragend ist das Sängerensemble . . . allen voran der stimmgewaltige Ryan McKinny . . . [Symphony no. 4]: Dirigent und Orchester werden beiden Seiten der Komposition gerecht, ohne je in wehleidiges Pathos zu verfallen. Ein Konzertmitschnitt, der kaum einen Hörer kalt lassen dürfte!

. . . [Symphonie no. 4]: Salonen souligne avec un réel sens de la couleur cette coulée incandescente aux grands gestes oratoires, aux subites transformations de texture, d'orchestration et de rythme.

About the Album

  • Commissioned to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the October Revolution in 1932, Orango tells the fantastical story of a human-ape hybrid, who, through a combination of sleazy journalism, stock-exchange swindles and blackmail, rises to become a ruthless newspaper baron

  • Because of its explosive political and musical content, Shostakovich left Orango unfinished. The score remained forgotten until 2004, when a 13 page piano score was found in Moscow

  • At the request of the composer’s widow, Gerald McBurney orchestrated the Prologue to Shostakovich’s lost opera,. Its World Premiere took place at Walt Disney Hall on December 2nd, 2011, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen

  • On a Mahlerian scale and ranging from the darkest tragedy to dreamlike sequences of music-hall and silent-film music, Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony is one of his most dramatic and revolutionary symphonic works. Forced by austere Soviet authorities to withdraw the radical symphony shortly before its premiere, the work was first heard in public over twenty five years later, when the composer is reported to have said, “I think in many ways the Fourth is greater than my later symphonic efforts”

  • The booklet contains essays by orchestrator Gerald McBurney, who tells the story of Orango’s rediscovery, and by renowned iconoclast director, Peter Sellars, who staged the work at its long-awaited Los Angeles premiere (please see attached)


Insights

Dmitri Shostakovich:
Orango ·  Fourth Symphony

The 1930s in the USSR were a decade of seething upheaval. Stalinism, often wrongly thought of as solid and monolithic, was in fact in ceaseless motion. Simply to live their daily lives, Soviet citizens had constantly to navigate a sea of changing rules and contradictory ideological demands. For artists, this created special problems. A writer, composer or film-maker might respond one day with energy and imagination to the world as they saw it all around them, only to find the official interpretation of that world suddenly so altered that their work of art was now deemed unacceptable, offensive or even in dangerous opposition to the purposes of the newest revolutionary reality.

The two works in this recording vividly reflect how such upheavals directly affected the life and music of Dmitri Shostakovich. The first, the opening to an ambitious and entertaining opera, was undertaken as a grandiose contribution to a nationwide official celebration in the early 1930s, but was then unceremoniously broken off, abandoned, and never returned to. The second, a mighty symphony, was conceived in the heroically abrasive and adventurous spirit of the mid-1930s but then suddenly overwhelmed by the regime’s deliberately repressive lurch early in 1936 towards nationalism, conservatism, traditionalism and romanticism. Although the score of the symphony was completed at that time, it was only able to be performed a quarter of a century later.

In the 1920s and early 1930s, theatre was one of the most inventive and dynamic parts of Soviet culture and the young Shostakovich threw himself into dramatic adventures, producing, between 1927 and 1937, two operas, three ballets, ten film scores, one music-hall show and seven sets of incidental music, as well as other similar projects which remained unfinished but survive as sketches among the manuscripts left behind at his death in 1975. Among the most fascinating of these unfinished sketches is the prologue to Orango, composed in 1932 as the opening to a full-length satirical opera. Apart from its title, almost nothing was known about this work until 2004, when the Shostakovich scholar Olga Digonskaya unearthed a thirteen-page piano score of this prologue in the Glinka Museum in Moscow.

From Digonskaya, we now know a good deal. The idea for this opera came from Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, which was looking for a striking contribution to the upcoming celebrations of the 15th anniversary of the October Revolution in the autumn of 1932. Their first task was to find a librettist ‒ or rather two: the well-known historical and science-fiction novelist Alexei Tolstoy (a distant relative of the author of War and Peace); and his regular collaborator, Alexander Starchakov. Tolstoy and Starchakov quickly came up with a startling idea for an uproariously irreverent squib, a satirical farce taking potshots at all kinds of aspects of contemporary culture: the much-discussed rebuilding of post-revolutionary Moscow, the latest fads in popular entertainment, the ludicrous exaggerations of mass-market journalism, the preposterous claims of modern science and much else besides. This helter-skelter medley was to be held together by an improbable story of an experiment in cross-beeding apes with humans to produce a “hybrid” – the Orango of the title – who achieves a dizzying career in Western Europe as a soldier in the First World War, then as a wheeler-dealer in Paris and finally as a powerful international press-baron promoting the rightwing interests of the capitalist world, before being betrayed and sold to a Soviet circus and taken to Moscow, to be exhibited for the amusement of the masses.

The librettists began by drafting an outline of the whole opera: a three-act drama recounting Orango’s life, preceded by a scene-setting prologue taking place in contemporary Moscow. They then produced a detailed libretto of the prologue, which they handed over to Shostakovich: on the steps of the absurdly gargantuan (and never constructed) Palace of Soviets, a vast celebration of the 15th anniversary of the October Revolution is under way. Entertainments are provided but the restless crowd demands to see the famous Orango. When Orango is brought out, however, not all goes according to plan. The “ape” gets out of control. To calm the resulting uproar, the Master of Ceremonies (“vesel’čak” – “the entertainer”) brings on musicians and actors to tell Orango’s story (the next three acts would thus have taken the form of an extended flashback, or an opera within an opera).

Shostakovich, who had just completed his preliminary draft of the third act of his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, immediately set down a piano sketch for this prologue to Orango, borrowing the overture and other fragments from his earlier ballet The Bolt op. 27 (1931) and from his musical-hall show Declared Dead (Hypothetically Murdered) op. 31 (also 1931). He also amused himself weaving in a slew of witty and satirical references to other music, including Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and the Russian popular song “Chizhik-Pyzhik”.

Alas, for reasons still unclear but almost certainly linked to wider changes in political and cultural policy in the autumn of 1932, Tolstoy and Starchakov never proceeded further with their libretto and the Bolshoi abandoned the project. In 2006 the composer’s widow, Irina Antonovna Shostakovich, invited the present writer to orchestrate what survives, keeping the composer’s original scoring for the fragments from The Bolt and elsewhere using models from his other theatrical pieces of the same period, including Lady Macbeth.

If Shostakovich’s Orango has until now been almost completely unknown, his Fourth Symphony by contrast is one of his best-known and greatest symphonic utterances. At the same time, this music too comes with an extraordinary story reflecting the painful uncertainties of the time when it was written. In fact, for years this symphony’s true fate was obscured by rumor and misinformation and it was only in 1993, when Isaak Glikman published his correspondence from the composer, that a different tale emerged.

It is known from anecdotes and press announcements that Shostakovich first began thinking about a major symphony on a Mahlerian scale in the early 1930s, and an unfinished fragment of an opening remains from that time. It was in the autumn of 1935, however, that he finally found his way, and by the end of that year he had drafted the first two movements, in a boldly original style that takes to new heights the distinctive combination of the epic and the modernistic which was so characteristic not only of Soviet music but of Soviet films and novels of the mid 1930s.

Then in January 1936 began the notorious campaign of public attacks on Shostakovich, opening with the Pravda article “Muddle instead of music”. These attacks were themselves opening shots in a far wider official campaign to change the whole atmosphere and tenor of Stalinist culture and society. This was the beginning of the period now infamously remembered as the Great Terror, and the final movement of this symphony was thus completed in an atmosphere of the greatest danger. Perhaps that is one reason why this movement’s intensely enigmatic music, weirdly combining dark tragedy with dreamlike sequences of music-hall and silent-film music, should be so shot through with echoes of the composer’s earlier works, including a strange quotation from the 1931 music-hall show Declared Dead (in the original show, the passage quoted accompanies a “Dance of the Cherubim” from an atheist cabaret in Heaven) and, as Olga Digonskaya has recently shown, a fragment from an abandoned opera on the 19th-century revolutionary movement, Narodnaya Volya (The People’s Will). There are also quotations from music by other composers, including Papageno’s panpipe motif from Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

Despite the horrifying circumstances surrounding its composition, Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony was successfully completed and scheduled for performance by the Leningrad Philharmonic under the distinguished Austrian conductor Fritz Stiedry. What happened next, however, was fiercely debated until Glikman published his story. According to his account, he was present with the composer at a rehearsal when an official from the Smolny (the headquarters of the Communist Party in Leningrad) appeared, work was stopped, and Shostakovich was forced to withdraw his symphony.
Glikman was also present 25 years later in December 1961, when the Fourth was finally given its long-delayed first performance, in Moscow under Kyril Kondrashin. On that occasion, Glik­man claimed, the composer turned to him and said: “I think in many ways the Fourth is better than my later symphonies.”

Gerard McBurney
5/2012

“An astute master of indirection”
Peter Sellars on Shostakovich’s Orango and Fourth Symphony
What a stunning discovery – a 30-minute prologue for a three-act opera in Shostakovich’s intense, dreamlike, delirious and entertaining tragedy-satire genre, an amalgam of pure dramatic shock, sharp political critique, popular mass culture, wild character pieces, sexy ballet episodes, heartfelt social protest music and sheer operatic pandemonium.

In the early years, every anniversary of the October Revolution involved a series of public processions, performances and installations that were hotly debated products by artists who were frequently in the vanguard of the government they were celebrating. These pageants and displays were constantly controversial, often crude, but as frequently exhilarating as a way of translating the idealism of the revolution, whose promises were a long way from being fulfilled, into tangible and empowering street demonstrations that engaged the population as democratic participants in shaping their own future, and transcended the temporary setbacks of famine, international economic blockades, a desperately underpowered industrial sector and the chaos and violence of the agricultural collectivization of the peasantry. The 15th anniversary of the great Soviet Revolution in 1932, scaled back and truncated, was the last to be celebrated in this way. By 1933, the first great wave of the Stalin Terror was under way, and celebrations reverted to the endless corteges of weapons that we know from subsequent decades.
That Shostakovich’s Orango was suddenly abandoned is a telling reminder of so much that was cut off and buried alive in this terrible year.

The high spirits and dazzle of Orango are a product of one of the most exciting moments in the history of art, the explosion of the Russian avant-garde in the 1920s. Meyerhold, Mayakovsky, Rodchenko and Eisenstein were leaders of a movement that radicalized the arts in service of a new society: justice, economic parity and re-imagined social priorities were only possible if you took the old order, turned it upside down, chopped it to pieces, and reassembled the parts into something new and wonderful. Because of the essential difficulty of the process, the work depended on élan, joyous, reckless indifference to psychological platitudes and received political wisdom. Shostakovich, still in his twenties, wrote the soundtrack to much of this anarchic foment and ferment. He was literally working on dozens of projects at once, writing more music with more catchy tunes than even Mozart in his twenties – film scores, ballets, processionals, cantatas, marches for firemen, workers groups, peasants, theatricals – all flowed from his scratchy pen with wit, economy, and surprising power.

Orango begins with an overture that reverses the tragic flow of human history followed by a chorus that traces mankind’s rise from serfdom to the formations of the first workers’ unions and negotiations about hourly wages and humane working conditions. (The commitment of this music remains stirring and freshly relevant in the 21st century, as people have once again taken to the streets to protest economic injustice and lack of equal opportunity.) A sleazebag emcee (who has evolved into our own TV news anchor/entertainer/mouthpiece/tool) appears and tries to keep the ceremonies politically on message, noting upticks in agribusiness and promoting an incipient real estate boom. All governments are relieved when the stage is given over to a brain-dead but iron-willed classical ballerina representing official culture that keeps the old order firmly in place. But Orango then proposes a new genetic mutation, a blowout ballet of tutus, tulle, and army and navy generals with a breathtaking toxic-cloud shock-and-awe panorama of the latest weapons exploding in the night sky. (Shostakovich rescued the music for this number from his brilliant two-and-a-half-hour industrial ballet, The Bolt, which was censored and withdrawn for decades after only one performance.)

Finally we meet the title character, an ape, or more exactly, I think, an orangutan – not a brutal, racially-charged, King Kong type, but a melancholy, red-tinged, delicate, sensitive, very human animal whose large eyes somehow betray an awareness of approaching extinction. Shostakovich uses a pointed reversal that he learnt from Mayakovsky and Meyerhold in The Bedbug – in the bold, new Soviet era this ape is the most human person on stage, a tormented and literally tortured Schubertian figure. Then there is a smarmy aria for an avatar of Soviet pseudo-science who has happily replaced God in the new society, and then a burlesque scene of music-hall chaos when the ape leaps off the stage and begins to rape a woman in the audience who is among the foreign guests. The emcee calls security as more people step from the audience to reveal the back-story of the strange ape, the offspring of a scientist who had sex with a lab animal. The emcee is thrown by the presence of so many undiscussible topics and leads the audience in a drinking song about how crazy life is that goes increasingly out of control. Sound like a heroic celebration of the 15th anniversary of the Soviet Revolution? Perhaps not. Maybe that is why work on Orango stopped here.

The next three years saw the consolidation of Stalin’s power and totalitarian state as Shostakovich began working on what would be the most ambitious symphony of his life, a work which documents the climate of fear, the nightmare of the show trials, the consolidation of the gulag and the early phases of mass murder. The Fourth Symphony was written almost secretly during these years and it stands as a symphonic testament comparable in power and scope to the late symphonies of Bruckner: an exhausting, enduring, unfathomable and fathomless masterpiece. It is Shostakovich’s version of the holocaust predicted in Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony, without the resurrection.

In Orango Shostakovich is an astute master of indirection via humor, formal parody and musical quotations that range subversively across the history of opera. In the Fourth Symphony hidden histories are signalled indirectly by quotations from Mahler (a forbidden composer in the USSR), Mozart and Shostakovich’s own body of suppressed work, including, we now know from Olga Digonskaya, Orango.
The Fourth Symphony has a sprawling, anecdotal, structural incoherence that is eerily compelling. As befits the history he is describing, every episode, every idea is cut off, destroyed or interrupted before its time. The strange fragments turn into fugues literally charging the word “flight” with another meaning, people running for their lives. The texture of the symphony is frequently composed of low-key, tender, bourgeois moments that feel like friends gathering for tea – inconsequential episodes that give life its humanity, the meaningless details of daily life that give meaning in a Chekhovian way to life itself. Inevitably these episodes are swept away in waves of panic: the wailing of a siren turns into a fugue from hell, a musical state of emergency in which the orchestra becomes incapable of playing a melody but gets stuck repeating over and over brutal, stuttering, two- or three-note phrases, tongue-tied, trapped, incapacitated and finally self-mutilating. The cheap tunes that gave Orango its juicy, kitschy, joie de vivre become the hollow, empty, cheap tunes that are the lifeblood of fascist governments everywhere, expressions of a public life in which imagination and meaning have been replaced by empty gestures of blank, generalized and forced collective happiness.

This massive symphony tries over and over again to rescue or rebuild small moments of civil society, but all that delicate, aspirational tracery and those vulnerable human feelings get swept away by relentless onslaughts of marches, explosions and equally human frenzy. Under Stalinism social distinctions were being levelled but not in the way artists had imagined in the 1920s – the world will be changed by chopping up people, ideas will be twisted and murdered, and words will be reversed, emptied of meaning, and rebuilt into vast structures of state power. Each movement ends with the hurricane of banality gradually dying in the distance, leaving a silent landscape and a desiccated danse macabre for the dry bones that will be the only remaining witnesses.


We now know that in the final movement of this symphony Shostakovich created a graveyard for his own unheard compositions, quoting extensively from banished, censored and abandoned work. He made an altar and a tomb on which he sacrificed his own musical children and buried them for ever in a symphony that would one day be capable of testifying to the unspeakable. It’s difficult in a recording to capture the shattering impact of this music played live in a concert hall. The dynamic extremes, the shrill piccolos, the high-pitched string phrases pierce your central nervous system, haunt you at night and won’t let you sleep. The dead also sleep restlessly in this music. As a chill wind sweeps across a barren plain, the coda of repeated notes in the celesta lets you know that the spirits of millions who perished so brutally still hover in the air.

Director Peter Sellars staged the
Los Angeles Philharmonic’s world premiere
presentation of
Orango
5/2012