Prieto Conducts Shostakovich
March 10th, 2022
Adolphus Hailstork (born 1941) Epitaph for a Man Who Dreamed (1978)
Composed for 3 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 4 horns, harp, and percussion
Adolphus Hailstork began his musical education at Howard University before additional studies at the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau where he was able to work with Nadia Boulanger. Hailstork went on to receive degrees from the Manhattan School of Music in New York and then finally received a doctorate in composition from Michigan State University.
A passionate educator, Dr. Hailstork has served on faculty at Michigan State University, Youngstown State University, and Norfolk State University. He currently serves as a professor and composer-in-residence at Old Dominion University in Virginia.
Composed at the suggestion of a colleague, Epitaph for a Man Who Dreamed received its premiere in early 1980 by members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. In program notes for an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performance of Epitaph, Nick Jones writes, “The composer has been quoted as saying that the piece represents the graveside service of a great man. The mourners gather and sing a spiritual, the music gradually swelling as more people arrive and join in the singing. After reflecting on the hopes and dreams inspired by this leader, they lift their bowed heads and move to carry on the work he began.”
Fyodor Akimenko (1876 – 1945) Nocturne in D(1910)
Composed for string ensemble of first and second violins, violas, cellos, and basses
Ukrainian composer Fyodor Akimenko was born and raised near Kharkov before he studied in St. Petersburg, Russia. He wrote primarily for the piano, and for eleven years he taught at the St. Petersburg Conservatory where he was the first composition teacher for a young Igor Stravinsky.
Although being Ukrainian by birth and having trained in Russia, Akimenko spent years living in Paris, and eventually settled thereafter the Russian revolution. The last years of his life were lived between the cities of Paris and Nice, France when he suffered a heart attack and died just months before the end of World War II.
Jacques Ibert (1890 – 1962) Flute Concerto (1934)
Composed for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, trumpet, timpani, strings, and solo flute
Jacques Ibert studied at the famed Paris Conservatoire and received top prizes for his compositions as a student, despite his time in school being interrupted by military service during World War I. As his career blossomed, Ibert enjoyed an eclectic and varied reputation as a composer. His music routinely defied expectation and normative tradition of the day. It would be difficult to name a work by the composer that captured his idiom well, because he worked without one, (although his works Divertissiment (1930) and Escales (1922) are his most well-known and often performed works.)
Written in 1934 for the flutist Marcel Moyse, Ibert’s Flute Concerto borrows musical influence from a litany of influences and therefore defies much categorization. It should suffice to say that the demands on the soloist are strenuous, whether it be in the virtuosic passages or the lengthy, lyrical writing that requires immense skill and control of breath.
The opening Allegro is based around an energetic first theme with a neoclassical shape, and a slower, more languorous second theme. Throughout, the flute is kept constantly busy. A sweet, lyrical Andante follows, the flute’s long-breathed song accompanied by gentle strings. The longest of the work’s three movements is the last, a jazzy Allegro Scherzando with a virtuoso solo cadenza. The finale is such a challenge for flutists that it has become a test piece at Ibert’s alma mater, the Paris Conservatoire.
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 – 1975) Symphony no. 5 (1937)
Composed for two flutes and piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, E-flat clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, two harps, piano, celesta, and strings.
First performed by the LPO on April 13, 1995, with Maxim Shostakovich, conductor
Most recently performed November 5, 2011, with Carlos Miguel Prieto, conductor
In 1937, the newspaper Pravda issued a scathing review of Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District which caused the composer severe damage to his reputation in the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin’s reputation for “disappearing” artists and writers who were not “pleasing” to the dictator was well-known to Shostakovich, who ended up canceling the premiere of his fourth symphony (which did not see the light of day until 1961, eight years after Stalin’s death) out of fear of Stalin’s disapproval.
With his Fifth Symphony, Shostakovich had a tremendous amount riding on the success of the large-scale work. His reputation as the greatest living Soviet composer hung in the balance, and perhaps even his very life. However, by the end of the premiere performance in Leningrad, Shostakovich’s stature as the preeminent Russian composer was secured as the standing ovation for the work lasted nearly thirty minutes.
The symphony was described by Shostakovich as being “a lengthy spiritual battle, crowned with victory.” It’s opening movement, Moderato sets the stage for this looming spiritual battle with a menacing theme introduced to us by the strings.
Allegretto is the playful second movement with a character that starkly contrasts the mood set by the first. Active, energetic woodwinds contrast monolithic writing in the brass before we come to a trio featuring a solo violin that is then interrupted by the full orchestra. The cynical undercurrents that are characteristic of much of Shostakovich’s writing are evident in this movement.
The third movement, Largo is the emotional heart of the entire symphony. Shostakovich takes his time in giving each part of the orchestra their moment in the spotlight before a heartbreaking climax.
The final movement, Allegro non troppo introduces a fiery theme with timpani and brass fanfare. Shostakovich returns to this theme over and over again in this movement, putting his talent for invention on full, defiant display. In the middle of this movement Shostakovich has the violins quote a song he wrote, set to words by the poet Alexander Pushkin: “And the waverings pass away/ From my tormented soul/ As a new and brighter day/ Brings visions of pure gold”
Despite the triumphant conclusion of the movement, Shostakovich, somewhat enigmatically, considered the ending an “irreparable tragedy.”