Edgar Moreau, one of the most sought-after young cellists on the classical scene, performs Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 107. Dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovitch who premiered the work in Moscow in 1959, this concerto bears witness of the personal difficulties experienced by the composer at the time of composition. Shostakovich's anxiety due to his illness, as well as his resentment againt the regime, pierce throughout the concerto's four mouvements. In the finale especially, the sarcastic quotation of one of Staline's most favorite Russian melodies is to be read as a lugubrious remembrance of what Stalinism inflicted on the population of the Soviet Union.
In the second half of the concert, Tugan Sokhiev, music director of the Orchestre National du Capitole, conducts Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 65. The subtitle "Stalingrad" is not in the orignal score. The Soviet government added this mention in order to portray Shostakovich's symphony as a memorial to those killed in the recent Battle of Stalingrad. The Symphony No. 8 was indeed considered by the composer's friend Isaak Glikman as "the most tragic work" ever composed by Shostakovich. Yet, this symphony lies within the tradition of symphonies composed in C Minor (Beethoven's Fifth, Bruckner's Eighth, Mahler's Second, ...) which follow a teleological path from Minor to Major, from "tragedy to triumph." Though here triumph might well sound be bittersweet.
Regarding the choice of using black and white, the TV director Jean-Pierre Loisil explains: "We know that Shostakovich was one of the Major icons in the 20th century's musical landscape, but we often forget that History played a big part in his work. The Symphony No. 8 was composed in the middle of WWII; there is nothing darker and more tragic than this score. The black and white was a way for me to respect this mourning atmosphere that Shostakovich wanted to create. It also came to me as a more expressive way to talk about war, than using colors."
Edgar Moreau appears courtesy of Erato/Warner Classics.
Philippe Calvario, Tugan Sokhiev
Mariss Jansons, Martin Kušej – Eva-Maria Westbroek (Katerina Lvovna Ismailova), Ludovít Ludha (Zinovy Borisovich Ismailov), Christopher Ventris (Sergey) – De Nederlandse Opera