LSO/Gergiev, Barbican Hall, London
Sunday 23 October 2005
Shostakovich undoubtedly wrote some great music. Much of it, however, has acquired an aura of greatness that relates more to the circumstances surrounding its creation than it does to the music itself. The Leningrad Symphony - written during the siege of 1941-3 and completed before the victory depicted in its last movement - is one such work.
The appeal of the first movement is visceral: a primitive thrill not dissimilar to that experienced while watching a horror movie. (The third, by contrast, mixes Mussorgsky's musky melancholy with Stravinsky's prismatic chording.) Whether the menace of the snare drum ostinato personifies Hitler or Stalin, as Shostakovich later claimed, is neither here nor there. Like wolves howling at the moon, we are programmed to respond to repeated rhythmic patterns; hence the enduring popularity of Holst's "Mars" and Orff's O Fortuna.
But where Holst implicitly condemns violence, Shostakovich seems as star-struck by the spectacle as Orff; intoxicated by the stamp of the jackboot and the roll of the tank, and content to record their progress without comment.
Off form, Gergiev is a chaotic conductor. On form, as he was in this performance, his rhythmic and dynamic control is astonishing. For all the grit of its subject, the Leningrad Symphony is a glossy work. Here it was given a glossy performance, with terrific work from the xylophone and snare, ravishing colours from clarinet, oboe and cor anglais, bright brass, and, as ever, the most polished string playing you will hear in this country. Shock and awe indeed.
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Refugee crisis: Sweden the only European country with a majority favourable towards non-EU immigration
- 2 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 3 Malnourished two-year-old found being breastfed by dog in Chile
- 4 Bob Geldof offers to take four refugee families into his home 'immediately' as he condemns humanitarian crisis as a ‘f**king disgrace'
- 5 YouTube video shows woman verbally abusing takeaway staff 'because they used green peppers'
Anne Hathaway is already being stung by Hollywood ageism, aged 32
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series
The Lobster trailer: Colin Farrell has 45 days to find a lover or he'll be turned into an animal
Spanish town saved by botched restoration of century-old Christian 'Ecce Homo' fresco of Jesus
'Beasts of No Nation': Netflix releases trailer of first feature film, starring Idris Elba
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees