12 August 2012

Emotional Music

Bruce Pulk, a percussionist for the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, recently gave a talk about Bohemian Rhapsodies at Westminster Village.  The last orchestral piece he played stirred us emotionally and was variously described as a violent storm, the destruction of a village, inner turmoil, etc.  Afterward, I talked with him about how emotional I felt when listening to Symphony No. 7 – the Leningrad Symphony by Dmitri Shostakovitch.  I related the music to the war years when the German army had besieged the city.  Bruce encouraged me to read Testimony: the Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovitch  by Solomon Volkov to gain an understanding of the origins of the symphony.  It turns out that I was way off base, that Shostakovitch had begun the work as a tribute to the people of Leningrad who had suffered through the purges and starvations of the Stalin era leading up to the siege of the city.  That throws a completely different light on the music, but certainly does not diminish the emotions the piece stirs; it only redirects the origin of the suffering to Stalin, who had no compunctions about torturing and murdering his own countrymen.  One can only hope that those days of terror are gone from Russia forever.  In any event, I encourage you to listen to the complete symphony and analyze your emotional reaction to the music.

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