Under the baton of the talented Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra performs Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No.12 in D minor "The Year 1917", Op.112. Recorded at Gothenburg Concert Hall, on October 26, 2017.
The year 2017 marks the centenary of the Russian revolution. Shostakovich, twelve years old, experienced this extraordinary transformation of society which would affect his life and future forever. In 1961 he composed the expansive and fateful Symphony No.12, which portrays the revolutionary Petrograd (St Petersburg), Lenin's planning of the revolution, the first grenades fired at the Winter Palace from the armoured cruiser Aurora, and finally the triumphant apotheosis with hopes of a better future.
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
♪ Symphony No.12 in D minor "The Year 1917", Op.112 (1961)
i. Revolutionary Petrograd (Moderato – Allegro – Più mosso – Allegro)
ii. Razliv (Allegro. L'istesso tempo – Adagio)
iii. Aurora (L'istesso tempo – Allegro)
iv. Dawn of Humanity (L'istesso tempo – Allegretto – Allegro – Moderato)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Santtu-Matias Rouvali
Gothenburg Concert Hall, October 26, 2017
There are five Shostakovich symphonies of his 15 that have political/historical programs: Nos. 2, 3, 7, 11, and 12. Probably one of the strongest arguments put forth by those who support the Volkov view of the composer (i.e., that he felt constant oppression in both his professional and personal life under the Stalin and post-Stalin Soviet regimes and thus satirized his persecutors with veiled symbolism in his music), is that these five patriotic symphonies are his least effective. The Twelfth is probably his most approachable symphony, not least because it contains several attractive, quite memorable themes. But its expressive language is self-consciously straightforward, as if the composer were striving with every note to avoid complexity and controversy at all cost.
The Symphony No.12, being rather simple and straightforward, contains nothing of the hidden symbolism one hears in other Shostakovich symphonies, like the Fifth, Seventh, and Tenth. Thus, its apparently sincere depiction of the Bolshevik Revolution as a heroic and liberating event becomes hard to reconcile with the view of Shostakovich as a dissident. Yet it is possible that the composer disapproved of the Soviet system under Stalin and the oppression that still lingered, but still harbored a positive view of Lenin and the revolutionary movement.
The Symphony No.12 has four continuous movements, each having subtitles relating to the Revolution: "Revolutionary Petrograd" (marked Moderato – Allegro), "Razliv" (Allegro – Adagio), "Aurora" (Allegro), and "Dawn of Humanity" (Allegretto – Moderato). It should be mentioned here that the second-movement subtitle, "Razliv" (Overflow), refers to the locale north of St Petersburg where Lenin hid out to conduct his revolutionary activities in safety; and Aurora was the name of the ship that fired a shot through a window of the Winter Palace, initiating the Revolution.
There are two main themes that occur throughout the Symphony. The first symbolizes oppression (in the first movement introduction) and a rallying against it in the Allegro section that follows. The ensuing second theme, which is similar to the first, though more hymn-like and serene, symbolizes hope and ultimately victory over the oppressors. Both have strong appeal, and as Shostakovich develops them throughout the symphony, their metamorphoses yield music of colorful bombast, including the march near the end of the third movement and the percussion-laden coda of the finale, the drama as found in the development of the first movement, and the restlessness of the second movement.
As a populist drama, this symphony offers thematic appeal but tempers its attractive qualities with the composer's overly simplistic expressive language and blatant bombast in his apparent artistic acquiescence to Soviet authorities. Was Shostakovich a true dissident, like Solzhenitsyn, or an opportunist?
Source: Robert Cummings (allmusic.com)
The 2017-2018 season sees Santtu-Matias Rouvali (b. 1985, Finland) begin two new tenures; Chief Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, alongside these positions he continues his longstanding Chief Conductor-ship with the Tampere Philharmonic close to his home in Finland. Hailed by The Guardian as "the latest sit-up-and-listen talent to emerge from the great Finnish conducting tradition", until last season Santtu-Matias Rouvali was also Principal Guest Conductor of the Copenhagen Philharmonic.
Rouvali has upcoming debuts with the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, Münchner Philharmoniker and Orquesta Nacionale de España in Madrid, as well as regular relationships with other orchestras across Europe, including the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in Paris, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin; and has ambitious touring plans with his own orchestras over the next few seasons in Europe, Japan and North America. His first season as Chief Conductor in Gothenburg includes a substantial Nordic tour with pianist Hélène Grimaud.
Previously a Dudamel Fellow at the conducting programme with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, last season he made a triumphant return as a highlight of their subscription season, alongside other American debuts with the Minnesota and Cincinnati symphony orchestras.
In June 2017, as Chief Conductor-designate, he joined Gustavo Dudamel and the Gothenburg Symphony in their El Sistema Side by Side project with the Gothenburg Symphony, which has been a hugely successful summer camp for children and young people.
As another cornerstone to his tenure in Gothenburg, he looks forward to adding his mark to the Orchestra's impressive recording legacy. Rouvali's latest disc – of Nielsen and Sibelius' violin concertos is with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra and Baiba Skride – was released in summer 2015 on ORFEO. Rouvali has been Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Tampere Philharmonic since 2013, and in addition to his other recordings, highlights of the tenure so far include a Sibelius symphony cycle in autumn 2015, and the Orchestra's first tour to Japan in spring 2017 where they were accompanied by an exhibition of original Moomin drawings by Tove Jansson to mark the opening of the new museum at the Tampere Hall.
Alongside an extremely busy symphonic conducting career, as Chief Conductor in Tampere he has conducted Verdi's La forza del destino with Tampere Opera and his next project with them, in spring 2018, is a world premiere of Olli Kortekangas's My Brother's Keeper (Veljeni vartija) with Tampere Opera.
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