Shostakovich piano portrait

Composer Spotlight: Dmitri Shostakovich

January 11, 2016

The beautiful fluidity inherent to music allows for an open interpretation by both the musician and listener alike. There is intended tone, laid out by the key it was composed in and the instruments it was written for, but in the end, a piece of music can exude as many tones as people that play it. For Soviet composer and pianist Dmitri Shostakovich, the tone comes through in reading between the notes.

Shostakovich’s combination of various musical techniques are underscored by sharp contrasts and a seeming ambivalent tonality. The emotion and story behind his pieces are highly interpretive. Russian-born composer Alfred Schnittke recounts seeing Shostakovich’s symphony performed in Vienna, “The Viennese musicians played the notes on the page… beautifully and correctly. But our Soviet musicians played the spaces between the notes. Especially the string players.”

It is in this experience of music that every person will differ. It is our humanity, our own personal story that places a filter over the piece and changes its meaning. That is the beauty of music, and something that Shostakovich utilized with expert deftness in his prolific works. A well-read man with a love of good humour, Shostakovich’s passion for story is evident in his string quartets, symphonies, piano preludes and fugues, operas, and even film music. His Soviet counterparts, as in Schnittke’s case, are drawn to the power of suggestions Shostakovich infused his work with during a time when freedoms of any kind were limited in their world.

The fine piano trio that is Han Finckel Setzer Trio will be performing Shostakovich’s Piano trio No.2 in E minor, Opus 67 Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 8:00pm. Hurry, tickets are still available for this concert online until 5:00pm on the performance day.

The irresistible and engaging Takács String Quartet is performing Shostakovich’s seminal post-WWII Quartet No. 3 in F major, Opus 73 Sunday, March 13, 2016 at 3:00pm. Tickets are still available for this special performance from Gramophone’s Hall of Fame Quartet.