Program Notes: Shostakovich Chamber Symphony

Written by Kimberley Manerikar

Trumpet Concerto
Marcus Goddard (1973-    )

Marcus Goddard is an award-winning composer and internationally recognized trumpet player.  Currently Composer in Association with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in addition to serving as Associate Principal Trumpet, Goddard’s compositions are performed around the world.  His catalogue includes ten pieces for large orchestra, many popular chamber works, and a sizeable collection of works for solo instrument and electronics.

Trumpet Concerto was written as a commission for the Victoria Symphony during Goddard’s term as Composer in Residence and premiered on November 3, 2018.

The composer had this to say about his piece:

“My Trumpet Concerto is my first large-scale work for a solo brass instrument, which is interesting because I have been the Associate Principal Trumpet with the Vancouver Symphony for almost twenty years. After many large orchestral works and a recent Violin Concerto written for Rachel Barton Pine and the VSO, it is exciting to “come home” to my own instrument.”

“In writing the Trumpet Concerto, I was inspired by both the trumpet’s incisive strength in fanfare figures as well as by its cosy lyrical side. Elements of jazz can be heard throughout the concerto in both the solo part and the orchestra. The first movement opens with fanfare figures laced with jazzy plunger effects in the trumpet. The second movement, titled “Vocalise,” features lyrical fluegelhorn melodies and soloistic orchestral colours. The final movement, “Propel” is an intense, seat-gripping ride to the work’s conclusion.”

“While working on the concerto, I had frequent collaborative discussions with soloist Ryan Cole. Ryan’s observations and suggestions during these talks were a great way for me to stay connected to the integration of the entire piece and to create a work that truly leaps out of the instrument.”

Chamber Symphony in C minor (arr. Barshai)
Dmitry Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Outwardly, Dmitry Shostakovich benefitted from several aspects of the “Thaw” after the death of Josef Stalin in 1953; his previously banned or withheld compositions were performed, he received an increasing number of accolades at home and abroad, and he enjoyed renewed contact with prominent composers in the West.  However, Nikita Khrushchev sought to shore up his unstable political position by seeking public support from prominent intellectuals of cultural influence.  In this climate, Shostakovich received a myriad of official posts and duties and ultimately, in spite of a general tide of the relaxing of extreme social and cultural oppression, his creative freedom was still severely constrained.

In his personal life Shostakovich suffered several devastating blows during this period.  In the winter of 1954 he lost his first wife unexpectedly, and in the following winter he lost his mother.  Two marriage proposals offered to former pupil Galina Ustvolskaya were met with rejection.  He was remarried in 1956 to Margarita Kaynova but the relationship deteriorated and ended in divorce just a few years later.  In addition, his own health was worsening—by 1958 the onset of symptoms of polio had acutely affected his right hand, making it terribly difficult for him to play the piano.  By 1960, dejected and isolated, physically ill and under intense pressure, Shostakovich capitulated and agreed to join the Communist Party.  It was a concession apparently followed by a great deal of shame.

In the summer of 1960 Shostakovich was in Dresden, contracted to compose the score for a film by Lev Arnshtam about the Soviet recovery of Dresden’s treasured artworks in the aftermath of the Allied bombing.  While he struggled to make progress on the film score he penned his String Quartet No. 8 in just three days.

 In the wake of the overwhelming popularity of this work two versions of its significance have emerged; one version that supports the dedication that appeared in the score (“In memory of the victims of fascism and war”)—the contention that it was inspired by Arnshtam’s film and the horrors Shostakovich saw in Dresden; the other, that the piece was written as a memorial to the composer himself.

Whatever the Shostakovich’s intention, the piece is rife with the composer’s signature DSCH (D, E-flat, C, B) motif and with quotations and allusions to several of his own compositions.  It unfolds in five tightly constructed, deeply interconnected movements which ultimately amount to a deeply affecting work.

Chamber Symphony in C minor is a transcription of Shostakovich’s String Quartet no. 8 for string orchestra.  It was made by Russian conductor and violist Rudolf Barshai and approved by the composer.

The Victoria Symphony performs on the traditional lands of the Lekwungen peoples and acknowledges with respect the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationships with the land continues to this day. We extend our appreciation for the opportunity to live, create, and perform on this territory.