Houston Symphony Plays Subversive Shostakovich

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Monday, May 07, 2012

Houston Symphony at Carnegie Hall Houston Symphony at Carnegie Hall (© Steve J. Sherman 2012)

Leading off Spring for Music, the Houston Symphony presents an all-Shostakovich program under the baton of music director Hans Graf.

Titled Two Faces of Shostakovich, the program features music by the Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich, a man who struggled with the political regime of Joseph Stalin, falling in and out of favor many times. The program contrasts the bitingly sarcastic Anti-Formalist Rayok (read the text) with his Symphony No. 11, a work that represents the politically accepted (but arguably subversive) Shostakovich.

Houston Symphony
Hans Graf, Music Director
Mikhail Svetlov, Bass

Antiformalist Rayok
Symphony No. 11, "The Year 1905"

Join us here for a live chat starting at 7:00 pm ET before the concert begins at 7:30pm ET. Leading the conversation will be St.John Flynn, program director from Classical 91.7 KUHA in Houston, Texas.


Anti-Formalist Rayok text:

Well now, comrades, how about beginning, shall we?

The audience members are not so many today, though.

Indeed, underestimation of the cultural maximum of the lecturing propaganda still prevails here.

But since, according to the plan, of our House of Culture are having a number of addresses today on “Realism and Formalism in Music.”

We’ll get it through, this here subject matter, I mean, well, these here addresses, I mean.

Right? (Music figures are silent.) Adopted.

The introduction on this subject matter will be delivered by Musicologist No. 1, our supreme consultant and music critic, Comrade Firstman.

Comrades, we are greeting our dear beloved Great Comrade Firstman!

(Thundering applause. All rise.) Hail! Long live Great Firstman!

Comrades! Realistic music is written by people’s composers, while formalistic music is written by anti-people’s composers.

May I ask why realistic music is written by people’s composers, and formalistic music is written by anti-people’s composers?

Realistic music, comrades, is written by people’s composers just because they, being realists by their natures cannot, nay, cannot help writing realistic music.

While anti-people’s composers, being formalists by their nature, cannot, nay, cannot help writing formalistic music.

Therefore, the solution is for people’s composers to develop realistic music, and for anti-people’s composers to stop their more doubtful experimenting in the domain of formalistic music.

Right! Exactly! Comrades!

Let us thank our father, our beloved Great Firstman for his enriching and enlightening coverage of important matters of the music trade.

Thank you, thank you for the historic speech!

According to plan, the floor shall be taken by Musicologist No. 2 who has a voice and is capable of vocalizing.

Comrade Secondman has the floor.

Comrades! In my speech, I do not mean to bring any dissonances Ha, ha, ha! Or atonality Ha, ha, ha! into the ideas we have heard here.

What we demand from music, comrades, is beauty and elegance.

Does this sound strange to you? Is it so?

Well, of course this seems strange to you. Yes, indeed well, you find it strange as if something is wrong in it.

However, it is even so. This is no slip of my tongue.

We stand for beautiful, elegant music!

Music not melodious, music not aesthetic, music not harmonious is a dental drill machine!

Or, or … a musical gas chamber.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

O let us love all that’s beautiful, charming, and elegant, let us love all that’s aesthetic, harmonious, melodious, legal, polyphonic, popular, and classical!

Moreover, comrades, I have to tell you that operas set in the Caucasus must contain the genuine lezginka dance.

The lezginka in Caucasus operas must be simple and well known, too, brave, ordinary, popular, and Caucasian by all means.

It must be real, must only be real, yeah… only real, yes, real.

(Music figures and figuresses exclaim bravely, Caucasus style, thus showing their full solidarity with the inspiring directions of Comrade A. A. Secondman.)

Assa! Assa!

Here is a truly scientific speech! What an analysis! What a depth!

Comrade Thirdman has the floor.

Comrades, we must be like classics!

We must have everything the classics had. Yes!

Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Kor-SA-kov, you are musical and elegant.

Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Kor-SA-kov, you are melodious, elegant,

and sonorous.

Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Kor-SA-kov, you touch several strings.

How right it is, how true it is! Our man is a very complicated organism.

Therefore comrades, we need symphonies, poems, quartets, sonatas, suites, quintets. Suites, suite-lets, my lovely little sonatas.

Merry-o little quartet-lets, my little lovely cantatas.

Hey, Glinka, berlinka, kalinka, malinka, poem, suite, symphony seem so funny!

Hey, Glinka, Zerjinka, Tishinka, stink it, poem-let, or suite-let stinking cute.

But we must always remember: alertness, alertness everywhere and everyplace.

Alertness, alertness, always and in all cases.

Be on the alert every moment! Never talk to anybody!

Alertness, alertness everywhere and everyplace.

Alertness, alertness always and in all cases.

We’ll be on the alert every moment! We’ll never talk to anybody!

The Great Leader taught us all, repeating incessantly:

“Look here, look there, let all enemies tremble.

Look here, look there, and stamp out enemies.”

Look here, look there, let enemies tremble in their homes.

Look here, look there, and stamp out enemies.

Alertness, alertness always and everywhere. Alertness, alertness always and in everything.

Cut short any attempt to bring bourgeois ideology to our youth.

This way you’ll save our ideas, in all truth.

Well, and if anyone takes on bourgeois ideas, we’ll lock them up for a very long time.

To labor camps, the Gulag! Lock up, lock up!

Yea, yea, lock up, lock up and send them all to labor camps.

The Great Leader taught us, repeating incessantly:

“Look here, look there, let all enemies tremble.”

Look here, look there, let all enemies tremble.

Look here, look there, and stamp out enemies.


On the tune “Look here,” dancers look here.

On the tune “Look there,” dancers look there.

The dancer’s expressions must be such that our ideological enemies fall down, scared to death.

Photo: Steve J. Sherman

Comments [3]

Jeff from NJ

Richard, the live streaming works fine for me but I've tried many times to listen to this archive of the Houston Symphony Shostakovich (one several different computers) but it just stops after a few minutes into the introduction. I've yet to hear a single note of the concert; very frustrating!

Jun. 01 2012 08:39 PM

We're sorry that you've experienced this trouble. To listen to our broadcast, click on the "Play" button at the top left corner of every page. The audio will start streaming automatically. If you experience any further problems, we have an audio help page with additional information:

We hope that helps,

May. 08 2012 03:59 PM
Richard Germann from Boston

WQXR is the only broadcasting station in the civilized world that makes it virtually impossible to listen live on a computer. Whoever designed your web site should get a prize for inaccessibility.

If there is a way to listen (other than on internet radio) please let me know.

Thamk you.

May. 07 2012 10:02 PM

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