It was Shostakovich Ninth, it played a couple days back; it was the FM broadcast by the estimable MTT and San Francisco. I hardly call it as a symphony. Rather it is a compilation of musical irrationality, though written amazingly smart and rational. As many times I heard it is always amuses and puzzles me: amuses me because it is superbly talented composed and puzzles because this entire piece is completely about nothing. It is like most of the poor jazz – embellishment for the sake of embellishment. Sure the “history” said that the Ninth was commissioned and composed… to celebrate the USSR victory over Germany and that Shostakovich decided to “give Stalin the finger, but keeping his finger in his pocket" but I think it is juts the typical dramatically-glorified BS in the Solomon Volkov’s style. No one in USSR 1945 played mockery neither with Russian victory nor with Russian leadership. Not to mention that the Ninth, as well as most that Shostakovich wrote, meant completely different; then was many time revised and then, when the time changed, the “history” was “sold” to public under the very different angle.
Anyhow, among all music the Ninth symphony takes a special place in the realms of musical absurdity. Interesting, that this sense of “absurdity about nothing” was practically never changed since “beginning of the times” (1945) up to today. When I listen the earlier performances of Koussevitzky or Kurtz (it would be fun to hear the premier by Mravinsky I it was broadcasted), the middle performances by Oistrakh, Bernstein or Mravinsky or the later performances by Jarvi, Haitink or Inbal then they all pretty much the same – are “talented absurdity about nothing”…
The FM broadcast that MTT put on a few days ago was kind of interesting. Michael Tilson Thomas did not even tried to make it “meaningful” but he and San Francisco actually played it “stupid”. They did not necessary played it well (listen Inbal with Vienna for that) but what would mean “well” in context of a meaningless work? The MTT did the Ninth very fast and I would say: “not clean”. However, those “not clean” moments actual added the ridicules to the peace and worked out very good. I was even wishing in the first movement that SFO should take wrong notes and it will be even more fun as it might drive the work even deeper onto absurdity. In fact, the God did heard my wish and half-way through the horn section went off the tune and it was… actually very well fit in the “program” of the Shostakovich Ninth…
"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche