Last week, I wrote about the Shostakovich festival that Mstislav Rostropovich has been able to conduct, with the Orchestre de Paris in the Salle Pleyel. Jean-Louis Validire reports (Quoi de neuf ? Chostakovitch..., November 24) on the second program in that two-week festival, which was performed on Wednesday and Thursday, for Le Figaro (my translation):
Judiciously, this second program contrasted the period of searching and freedom around the first piano concerto (with trumpet and strings) in 1933, the five interludes excerpted from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which caused the first condemnation of the composer, and the tenth symphony, premiered on December 17, 1953, shortly after Stalin's death. After the oppressive Allegro of its second movement, its calm finale carries the composer's signature in the form of his monogram DSCH (D, E-flat, C, B): a victory tainted with sweet irony, mastered by an orchestra galvanized against the Little Father of the People, who had denounced, in 1936, "chaos in the place of music."Rostropovich certainly knows Shostakovich's music intimately, because of his relationship with the composer. However, what made the Paris performances so memorable -- and reviewers consistently mentioned the effusive ovations that greeted Slava and the orchestra -- was not really what Rostropovich is capable of at the moment. What also would have made the NSO's canceled Shostakovich festival unforgettable is the desire of the players at this point in Rostropovich's life to work their hardest for him. It's too bad for Washington.
When Shostakovich composed the tenth symphony, the horizon was far from being free of clouds: he had been dismissed from his teaching position, which he did not regain until 1961. The mixed feelings, the anguish, the hope, and then the doubt are embedded in the unfolding of this music, to which Rostropovich knew how to give a universal character. The cohesion of the orchestra was magnificent.
The concerto was performed with great conviction by the young pianist Cédric Tiberghien, whose playing was fortunately less mannered than his gestures. Frédéric Mellardi drew forth clearly from his trumpet the sarcastic and rage-filled accents that give this work the euphoric sounds of liberty.