In the Soviet shadow

Schostakovich, Pärt and Panufnik

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The three composers whose work will be performed at this concert had one thing in common: they all composed classical music in Eastern Europe while the Cold War was at its coldest.

Dmitri Shostakovich is a symbol of the strength of art and the importance of music throughout history. He lived in the Soviet Union under the constant threat of Stalin’s terror, even though his music played an essential role in lifting the morale and joy of the Russian people. In 1960, he wrote his String Quartet No. 8, which was later arranged for chamber orchestras and renamed Chamber Symphony in C minor. This symphony remains as Shostakovich’s musical signature, and it is widely believed that he dedicated it to himself.

In the 1970s, the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt created a compositional style that he called “tintinnabuli” (Latin for ‘a bell’). This simple musical style is characterized by two types of voice, a ‘tintinnabular voice’ that moves slowly in the same tempo around diatonic tone landscape. Works in this style have a touch of minimalism, a meditative tempo and inner peace. Fratres (Brothers), which he composed in 1977, is one of the earliest works in this distinctive style.

The Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik’s violin concerto from 1971 was commissioned by Yehudi Menhuin. The work is characterised by its long and unbroken melodic lines for the soloist. Panufnik wrote the following in his composer’s notes:

When Yehudi Menuhin asked me to compose a violin concerto for him, I immediately had in mind his unique spiritual and poetic qualities and I felt I should provide a vehicle which would accentuate these rare gifts, and not obscure his deep inner musicianship by virtuoso pyrotechnics. – – ANDRZEJ PANUFNIK

The concert is part of the subscription series Mezzo and Total. Click here to read more about our subscriptions.

General ticket sales start on 1 June.