1937, 1942, 1992, 2015, Music

Khachaturian: Gayane; Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 (1992, 2015) by London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antal Dorati

This disc collects a suite from Khachaturian’s Gayane with Shostakovich’s 5th symphony.

The suite from Gayane (I assume it is a suite because it is so short) opens with one of the most famous pieces of classical music of the 20th century, “Sabre Dance,” which you have undoubtedly heard in multiple films (and, particularly, in cartoons). It is a brief but lively and rousing piece of music. As is most of the rest of this music in this suite. But this is music from another time. I understand that there were incomprehensible pressures in the Soviet union to produce a certain kind of music, but this is not music I love. It’s full of big, easy emotions. It get that it’s meant to be bombastic, but it is just so damn bombastic… My introduction to Khachaturian does not endear me to him. That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s just not remarkable.

Shostakovitch is a composer I have heard a lot about, but heard only some music from. His symphonic cycle is claimed by many to be the greatest of the 20th century. I have only heard a couple of these symphonies before and, if I’ve heard the 5th, I don’t remember hearing it previously.

Shostakovitch is a more conservative, more traditional composer than the 20th century composers I usually enjoy. I understand that at much of that conservatism comes from the fact that he lived and worked in the USSR and was forced by threat of imprisonment or even death to write in certain ways. Given that, he still took some risks albeit, not with this symphony (from my understanding).
Shostakovitch’s music has, for me, almost a Mahlerian quality to it, where you can hear the sophistication and the thought in the music, and you can hear the interest in more modern ideas, but everything is routed firmly in tradition. But this symphony strikes me as more conservative than some of the other pieces of music of his I’ve heard. Maybe it’s a piece I need to give more time, but it feels to me like this was not the place for me to start anew with his work (I haven’t listened to him in years) and I’m not as impressed as I was hoping to be.
I don’t know what I think about pairing these two pieces. They certainly are of a time in Soviet music, but I feel like a more sensible pairing could have been arrived at. Anyway, it’s alright.

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