Shostakovich 15: Surprising, beautiful and somewhat understated
Mark Gateshill talks about the symphony we're working on in preparation for our concert on 19th March.
The thing that always strikes me about Shostakovich’s final symphony is how unsettling it is, despite the fact the composer was looking to create an uplifting piece. Though beautiful, it’s evidently the work of an already sick man facing the end of his life.
So when I started thumbing through this gorgeous leather bound score, I found myself deeply involved from the first few pages. I treat a score as you would a long anticipated novel; waiting to be delighted by something I know about the music but always surprised by a phrase or passage that I’m not expecting.
I talked last time about playing my favourite recording when getting to know a piece. For this symphony, it has to be Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra on vinyl which I've always listened to as it’s got great depth and I really like the tempi.
The work contains musical quotes, most notably one from William Tell, which had the orchestra smiling at our first rehearsal for the Spring concert. We’re opening the evening on March 19th with the real thing, so it’s apt that echos of the overture re-emerge later in the programme.
Right, so having marked in time changes and patterns and key cues for the players, we’re ready to go. Two rehearsals in now so I’ll update you in a couple of weeks on how it’s shaping up.
For more information on Shostakovich’s final symphony have a read of the Guardian's symphony guide on the piece.