Symphonic Hour - Shostakovich 8
Dmitri Shostakovich, Symphony No. 8 in C minor, Op. 65
A DEFEATED SURVIVAL
Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony is the second of three wartime symphonies the Soviet composer wrote between 1941 and 1945. This colossal work, which stemmed from the darkest days of the war with Nazi Germany with the infamous Battle of Stalingrad, is perhaps Shostakovich’s most tragic composition. In five movements, Shostakovich tries to come to terms with excessive violence and endless suffering, both emotionally and philosophically. A dark fate motif opens the 30-minutelong first movement. The lonely cries from the wind instruments sound hollow and reinforce a sense of despair and desolation. Next come the march-like second and third movements - “with elements of a scherzo”. In the monomaniacal allegro non troppo, German conductor Kurt Sanderling heard das Niedergetrampelltwerden des Individuums (the trampling of the individuals). With a passacaglia in the fourth movement, Shostakovich mourns what has just happened, after which the fifth movement closes the symphony in a very atypical way. Unlike Mahler’s Second symphony, also written in the key of C minor, Shostakovich makes no room for resurrection. The pianissimo ending does not indicate triumph, but a defeated survival, like an orphan returning home.
Antony Hermus, conductor
Antony Hermus was recently appointed Chief Conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra, starting an initial four-year term in September 2022 with a Designate year.