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chosen advice. As a result, Gershwin cut expanses from each of the movements (in addition to making a number of smaller changes), yielding a tighter work for the imminent premiere. The concert was sold out, and the audience cheered rapturously at the conclusion of the Concerto in F. Critics were more reserved; they had already heard a perfectly good example of Gershwin’s “symphonic-jazz fusion” when the Rhapsody in Blue was unveiled a year before, and they found less to be excited about the second time around. One critic proclaimed the work “interesting and individual,” another found it “conventional, trite, [and] a little dull.” Damrosch was not to be swayed. He was a true believer in the piece, as he made clear in the flowery speech he delivered from the stage at the premiere: “Lady Jazz, adorned with her intriguing rhythms, has danced her way around the world...But for all her travels and her sweeping popularity, she has encountered no knight who could lift her to a level that would enable her to be received as a respectable member in musical circles. George Gershwin seems to have accomplished this miracle. He has done it boldly by dressing this extremely independent and up-to-date young lady in the classic garb of a concerto. Yet he has not detracted one whit from her fascinating personality. He is the prince who has taken Cinderella by the hand and openly proclaimed her a princess to the astonished world.” It’s hard to follow such an effusion. We might add that this “up-to-date young lady” seems to have had at least a passing acquaintance with the virtuosic piano concertos of Franz Liszt and Sergei Rachmaninoff and that her coming-out party was foreshadowed in a piano prelude Gershwin sketched about a year earlier, which he essentially re-worked into the opening theme of the third movement. But for a succinct description of how the piece unfolds, we can fortunately turn to Gershwin’s own description, which the New York HeraldNew York Tribune printed in advance of the premiere: The first movement employs the Charleston rhythm. It is quick and pulsating, representing the young enthusiastic spirit of American life. It begins with a rhythmic motif given out by the kettledrums, supported by other percussion instruments, and with a Charleston motif introduced by...horns, clarinets and violas. The principal theme is announced by the bassoon. Later, a second theme is introduced by the piano. The second movement has a poetic nocturnal atmosphere which has come to be referred to as the American blues, but in a purer form than that in which they are usually treated. The final movement reverts to the style of the first. It is an orgy of rhythms, starting violently and keeping to the same pace throughout. - Program Note by James M. Keller © 2015, San Francisco Symphony. Used with permission. ShOSTakOvICh: SyMphONy NO. 5 IN d MINOR, Op. 47 (1937) Political and artistic pressures coincided many times in the course of Shostakovich’s career, but never more intensely than in the year 1937 when the Fifth Symphony was composed. Early in 1936 his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and the bal-


let The Limpid Stream had been officially condemned, and in consequence he felt obliged to withdraw his Fourth Symphony before its scheduled premiere. These works, which are full of a wayward, dissonant genius, made no concession to the official doctrine of Socialist Realism, and the bleak endings of both opera and symphony directly contradicted the optimism then expected from Soviet artists. The crisis he faced was far more than a question of musical style: it was quite literally a matter of life or death. By 1936, the mechanism of Stalin’s Great Terror was lurching into motion, with show trials, denunciations and disappearances. Few Russians remained untouched, particularly in the composer’s own city of Leningrad. Shostakovich himself lost relatives, friends and colleagues. A particularly serious blow was the arrest and execution in June 1937 of his highly-placed protector Marshal Tukhachevsky; association with such an “enemy of the people” put Shostakovich in a highly dangerous position. It was in this nightmare atmosphere that Shostakovich composed his Fifth Symphony, between April and July 1937. A conscious attempt at rehabilitation, intended to re-establish his credentials as a Soviet composer, it represents a well-calculated combination of true expression with the demands of the State. Shostakovich calculated well. The premiere, given by the Leningrad Philharmonic under the relatively unknown Yevgeny Mravinsky on November 21, 1937, was an unqualified triumph, with scenes of wild enthusiasm which were repeated at the Moscow premiere the following January. The first performance outside Russia took place in Paris that June, and before long the Symphony had been performed all over the world and was being held up as a model of what Soviet music could and should be. The Symphony certainly represents a break with Shostakovich’s unruly musical past, for here the language is simplified, with few of the eccentricities that had made him such a great satirist in the first decade of his career. The level of dissonance is lower and the music is contained within a clear formal plan. There is not, however, any radical change of style. Shostakovich’s unmistakable fingerprints—unexpected twists in melody and harmony, strange scoring, sometimes eccentric or shrill, with writing in the extremely high or low registers— are all present, but now absorbed into a traditional four-movement symphonic structure of great clarity and power. As he would later in the first movements of his Eighth and Tenth Symphonies, Shostakovich immediately creates a sense of enormous space, both brooding and desolate, with a masterly control of slow pacing and pared-down orchestral textures. The first movement’s climax, reached after a remorseless build-up of tension (from the moment the piano enters), bursts out into a grotesque march, followed by a sense of numb exhaustion. The second movement, a type of sardonic scherzo, preserves some of the qualities of the earlier Shostakovich in its shrill scoring, use of wry parody and vulgar march and dance elements, an important part of his inheritance from Mahler. The brooding Largo is the expressive heart of the symphony. Listeners who had until then known only the witty or irreverent side of Shostakovich would have been surprised by the

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