My favorite composer is Dmitri Shostakovich. I actually named my pet parakeet after him, I love him so much. His music has a way of worming itself in my brain and staying there. It’s really hard to put into words my feelings about this music. Shostakovich was a tremendously complicated person, living in complicated times, and complicated circumstances. No one is sure how to really interpret many of his works. Was his fifth symphony making fun of Stalin and Communism, or a gift to them? I find that while these questions are very interesting, they’re separate from the music. His fifth symphony is brilliant, regardless of the context.
Morning Edition on NPR ran a story yesterday about his fifth symphony that covers some of that context. This was actually their second Shostakovich story in a week. Last week they ran a piece on his seventh symphony. All this attention really pleases me.
Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony is my favorite piece of music ever. At nearly an hour and a half long in length, it’s not a light piece of music, but from the very first notes, my brain is engaged. The best recording I’ve found is Leonard Bernstein conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The full experience requires really good speakers turned up to eleven, especially for the finale.