KSO This Week: Tchaikovsky Symphony #4, Shostakovich, Berlioz

Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Masterworks
Lawrence Loh, guest conductor
Berlioz: Roman Carnival Overture, Opus 9
Shostakovich: Concerto No. 1 for Cello and Orchestra in E-flat Major (Julie Albers, cello)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Opus 36
Thursday and Friday, January 22-23, Tennessee Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets start at $15

If memory serves me correctly, my original introduction to composer Dmitri Shostakovich came with the first of his Cello Concertos, rather than one of his symphonies. While others may have had different reactions, mine was of immediate attraction and fascination. The work was composed in 1959 (and dedicated to the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich) six years after the death of Josef Stalin during the subsequent Khrushchev regime’s efforts to ameliorate Stalin’s negative effects on the arts. Nevertheless, the work represents a cautious, if not nervous, paranoia, as if one was still looking over their shoulder, something the composer was forced to do earlier, both figuratively and literally.

In the finale movement, Shostakovich carefully got a bit of revenge on Stalin. A five note phrase comes from Stalin’s favorite song, “Suliko,” with music by Sulkhan Tsintsadze and words from a 19th Century poem. However, Shostakovich turned the sentimental phrase into one with a maddening frenzy that repeats as if in a nightmare–revenge indeed for the treatment the composer endured during the Stalin years.

julieAlbers7_smJulie Albers is the guest cellist in the Shostakovich Concerto No. 1 for Cello and Orchestra in this week’s concert pair.