home > this article
|Chapter Twenty Nine of Keeping Score in America: Gustavo Dudamel And Dimitri Shostakovich
By Michael Moriarty
Dimitri Shostakovich's 10th Symphony conducted by Gustavo Dudamel brings together two entirely different but profoundly complimentary geniuses: Dimitri Shostakovich and Gustavo Dudamel.
I consider the Shostakovich 10th, first performed following the death of Joseph Stalin, to contain the hidden rage, profoundly embittered sarcasm, inevitable agonies and highly concealed but profoundly impressive courage of an indisputable genius's lifetime under Soviet Communism.
It's creation may very well have, till the moment of its first performance, spanned nine years.
Returning to the subject of a powerfully dynamic collaboration, were both Shostakovich – and this is a question – this high strung genius of the Soviet Union, and Dudamel, the divinely endowed child of a troubled Venezuela, have they both been forced to follow a Far Left direction? Dudamel's political identity set by Hugo Chavez, and, therefore, don't both men, Shostakovich and Dudamel, now, in both death and life, share much of the same pressures. Function with much the same survival instincts?
I suspect that after Shostakovich's experience with Stalin and the tyrant's response to the composer's opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtensk– nearly destroyed by homicidal Stalin's pure condemnation – the contents of the Shostakovich 10th, like that of his 4th Symphony, was potentially too incendiary for performance in a Soviet Union still containing the living, breathing, threatening and genocidal presence of Joseph Stalin.
Then there is the mystery of Dudamel conducting a Shostakovich symphony dedicated to Vladimir Lenin, the 12th Symphony, of which an excerpt is linked here.
Why that particular symphony, Mr. Dudamel?
Whom and what are you appeasing?
Shostakovich wrote fifteen symphonies! And the Shostakovich "Leninist" symphony, # 12, is performed by a Berlin Orchestra haunted by the Soviet Union's Berlin Wall?
All very Leninist inspired tyrannies!
Survival for artists born or trapped into some form of tyranny?!
Could very well be what has made them even greater artists: the ever-present surroundings of Evil.
The most vital question hanging in the air is stated quite clearly here by Néstor Pérez, in a comment beneath the Youtube site for Dudamel's performance of the 10th Symphony:
THE INCREASINGLY SEMI-FREE WORLD
Dudamel, in addition to his appearances with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela, is also under contract to the Los Angeles Philharmonic till, as I understand his five year agreement, the contract ends in 2014.
Together these young musicians of Venezuela and their leader have created an orchestra now known and deeply respected round the world!
The symbolic imprisonment Shostakovich was married to had been a metaphorically schizophrenic predicament until Stalin's death.
The 10th is not just brilliantly performed by Gustav Dudamel's Simon Bolivar Orchestra.
It is divinely performed!
What I mean by that is God's Presence somewhere within all of its conception, direction and execution.
There are numerous solos placed throughout the symphony and in many different instrument sections. Each is played with this same profound understanding of the entire ensemble's intention with this performance.
How would I describe the intention?
To carry the audience through a painfully important, four act drama, the inner life of Dimitri Shostakovich under the oppressions of Joseph Stalin.
Not the least of which oppressions was having to compose symphonies which, until Stalin's most welcome death, must please Stalin. Must keep the dictator from persecuting, imprisoning and/or executing the composer.
I first alluded in my editorials for Enter Stage Right to Shostakovich with an article about Bill Maher!
How did that happen?
Shakespeare's play, King Lear.
The character of The Fool.
Two men, both Bill Maher and Dimitri Shostakovich, playing the Far Left Fool to the King Lear's of both Barack Obama and Joseph Stalin.
The details of Shostakovich as Fool or, as the Russians label the role, Yurodivy, are for another editorial.
Till then I just must ponder the "predicament" which both Shostakovich and Dudamel must have shared – and which both their souls are still sharing – over having an entirely state-supported membership in the symphonic arts of Venezuela.
However, as Néstir Péréz concludes: "Beautiful music thou' (though)"!
Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/@MGMoriarty.