Musical Musings

Shostakovich's Festive Overture

Dmitri ShostakovichAs a composer active during Stalin’s regime, Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-75) is inextricably linked with the political climate of the time. During the course of his career, he constantly walked a fine line between artistic freedom and the demands of the cultural police.

Shostakovich had reason to be nervous. A work’s reception meant much more than a good or bad review—it literally could mean life and death.

"It didn’t matter how the audience reacted to your work or if the critics liked it. All that had no meaning in the final analysis. There was only one question of life or death: how did the leader like your opus?"

Dmitri Shostakovich, excerpt from his autobiography Testimony

In spite of the constant undercurrent of strain running through his life, Shostakovich was reportedly a good-natured person—and the Festive Overture’s creation reflects this. The work sprang to life in fall 1954 at the request of the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra, which suddenly found itself in need of a new work to commemorate the October Revolution.

"It is just the most joyous romp that you can imagine. I love playing that piece."

Betsy Hudson Traba, principal flute with the Sarasota Orchestra

Learn more about the first Masterworks concert of the season, The Emperor, here. The concert takes place November 6 - 8 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

{adapted from Program Notes written by Jennifer Glagov}

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