Rock and a Hard Place

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What was it really like for artists yearning to express themselves during the age of the Soviet Union? This year’s edition of Wall to Wall, the free, day-long concert at Symphony Space, looks at the music of composers who lived and worked behind the Iron Curtain. We'll give you a sneak preview, listening to composers from different USSR-occupied countries who needed to climb walls to be heard, so to speak.

Dimitri Shostakovich was infamously terrorized by police and political figures for decades during the Cold War, constantly living in fear while his works were either criticized and banned, or, briefly exalted and then banned again. Other composers also lived this manic existence: Estonian composer Arvo Pärt was considered controversial and his composition Credo was banned. Henryk Gorecki's Miserere, written in response to a brutal police attack in Poland, was not heard for more than 6 years and its first performance was considered 'illegal'.

This week, we'll hear music of Shostakovich, Part and Gorecki, as well as Sextet by Erwin Schulhoff. A German-born musical prodigy- pianist, composer and brilliant improviser- he loved the popular styles of his day, including jazz. Schulhoff decided to become a Soviet citizen in 1939, but was soon deported and sent to a concentration camp during a brief non-aggression pact between Stalin and Hitler, where he was exterminated. His Sextet, for 6 string players, proves he was a huge talent that fell victim to the war.


(What did I do to Be So) Black and Blue
Waller, Razaf, Brooks
Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocals
Disques Swing 8450

Erwin Schulhoff
Gidon Kremer, violin
Philip Hirschhorn, violin
Nobuko Imai, viola
Kim Kashkashian, viola
David Geringas, cello
Julius Berger, cello
ECM 1347/48

Chamber Symphony in C Minor, Op. 110a
Dmitri Shostakovich
Uri Mayer, conductor
The Israel Sinfonietta
Arabesque 6711

Oh Freedom
Golden Gate Quartet

Collage sur B-A-C-H
Arvo Part
Jean Jacques Kantorow, conductor
Tapiola Sinfonietta
BIS 834

String Quartet No. 1, "Already It Is Dusk"
Henryk Gorecki
Kronos Quartet
Nonesuch 79319

Contrasts, SZ. 111
Bela Bartok
Martha Argerich, piano
Chantal Juillet, violin
Michael Collins, clarinet
Angel/EMI 56816

Minstrel Man
Langston Hughes
Paul Robeson, bass-baritone
Angel/EMI 15586

Seven Songs on Poems by Alexander Blok, Op. 127
Dmitri Shostakovich
Galina Vishnevskaya, soprano
David Oistrakh, violin
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello
Moishei Vaynberg, piano
Melodya 53237

Hungarian Rock
Gyorgy Ligeti
Elisabeth Chojnacka, harpsichord
CBS/Sony 62307