This time of year, classical music is a big deal for me. Given, it’s a big deal during other points of the year (springtime with Stravinsky is such a rich experience), but something about the snow falling and a violin will get to me. A friend and I were discussing Fantasia 2000, which I absolutely adore due to the fact that it’s a bit like what happens when I close my eyes and listen to music. Oh, the stories I could tell. Anywho, here’s a snippet of that film: the segment for Shostakovich’s “Piano Concerto No. 2.” There’s some intro, but it’s entertaining. Enjoy.
So to really appreciate why I love this one so much, you have to realize a few things about Shostakovich. He lived through the rise of Marxism in Russia, and the performance of his first symphony was attended by Stalin. In fact, Stalin decided that he hated it and used it to criticize the entire world of Russian music; Shostakovich, in turn, was denounced publicly. The people he counted as close friends were terrified of being blacklisted as well, so they kept quiet rather than defend him. What’s a nervous, sensitive composer to do? He kept on writing. A year later, he brought about the Fifth Symphony, which literally moved people to tears in their seats. Throughout the years, he continued to both be in favor and fall out of favor, but he did what he did best: he kept on writing music. Where does “Piano Concerto No. 2” come in? He wrote it for his son’s 19th birthday. A joyful, fitting piece for someone who nervously kept writing in the face of adversity. Something to think about in the dark times ahead of us.