Schostakowitsch

An all-Schostakowitsch concert this evening with the Russian State Symphony Orchestra under Mark Gorenstein.

The main work, in the second half of the program, was the Symphony #7. Some people do not like this piece because they consider it over-long and repetitive. However, it is a powerful work, I like it, and I’ve never heard a bad performance until tonight.

The orchestra sounded great. Hit all the notes as written. High-quality musical performance, at least technically.

Gorenstein made the work interminable, though. This was a perfectly proficient and ploddingly passionless performance.

Perhaps the only other person who could coax such a dismal performance from an orchestra would be Lorin Maazel – indeed, it reminded me of the last time I heard Maazel conduct, which was purely by accident at the Tonhalle in Zurich when he was a last-minute substitution for Wolfgang Sawallisch, who had gotten ill. I will never go to a Maazel performance on purpose again, and now I know never to go to a Gorenstein one either.

All the notes were there. All the markings were observed. Everything was done as written. Gorenstein used a methodical and clear technique. He got exactly what he wanted. And since Gorenstein is the Russian State Symphony Orchestra’s music director, their technical quality can indeed be attributed to him. However, let’s just say the performance was so bad that members of the orchestra were falling asleep on stage. And the audience thinned out as the concert went on, with people – lots of people – just getting up and walking out. I wasn’t that rude, but I had an aisle seat and I have to admit that I was tempted to leave.

The first part of the concert was Schostakowitsch’s Chamber Symphony in c minor, which is an orchestration of a string quartet he wrote when he was considering suicide. The depressive work is rarely performed, and perhaps the novelty value of it kept the orchestra awake for this piece, and performing with pathos that was not there after the intermission.

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