Shostakovich Festival - Lucas Debargue

Fri 25.02.22 20:00

Dmitri Shostakovich

  • Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35
  • Symphony No. 13 in B-flat minor, “Babi-Yar”, Op. 113

Shostakovich’s Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings is a particularly cheerful and humorous composition, written in 1933 when the composer was 27 years old and had not yet clashed with the Soviet regime. The double concerto has four movements, quotes from a wide range of music (his own compositions, Beethoven and Haydn sonatas, folk songs), and demands a high level of virtuosity. The trumpet frequently interrupts the piano’s passages with sardonic joy.

After many turbulent years under Stalin, came what was known as the ‘Khrushchev Thaw’: a more relaxed period in which certain things were permitted once more. In 1961, Shostakovich read in a newspaper the poem Babi Yar, written by the young, controversial poet Yevgeny Yevtuschenko. The poem denounced the fact that years after the murder of more than a hundred thousand people (mainly Jews) by the Nazis in Babi Yar, a ravine near Kiev, no monument had yet been erected. Shostakovich, who had spoken up on behalf of Jews on numerous occasions over the preceding years, made the bold decision to set the poem to music, along with several others by Yevtuschenko.

The resulting Symphony No. 13 for bass soloist, male choir and full orchestra can be seen as one of Shostakovich’s most political works. Some commentators claim that, with great orchestral violence, Shostakovich condemns not only latent anti-Semitism but also other problematic aspects of Soviet life: the vain attempts of tyrants to stifle humour, Soviet women having to queue for hours every day to collect food rations, Stalin’s reign of terror, and the everyday corruption of officials. The fact is that following its premiere this symphony was immediately censored, and Shostakovich would never again get involved with poets as subversive as the young Yevgeny Yevtushenko.


Belgian National Orchestra
Hugh Wolff, dirigent
Mikhail Petrenko, bas
Lucas Debargue, piano
Leo Wouters, trumpet
Octopus Choir
Bart van Reyn, choir master


Leo Wouters

Section Leader 1st soloist