SHOSTAKOVICH's Prelude (1955)
The mood of the short 3 minute work is dismal to say the least. In fact, any word used to describe it after that would only confuse those things Shostakovich wished to express with no words at all. So let me tell you a different story: Imagine a mental picture or landscape of recent post-war Russia, as told through one of the most important artistic figures to be politically associated with the ghastly events of WWII. Having not only lived the oppression himself, Shostakovich had a turbulent relationship with Stalin that resulted in a largely public and powerful show of powers between dictator and poetic justices. Shostakovich united the people with every sympathetic, war-torn symphony he premiered; because he was living it with them; and Stalin knew this. Attempting to take advantage, Stalin tried to forge a relationship with the artist asking him to write various compositions in the dictators honor. Being the humble genius that he was, Shostakovich used a few of these instances to publicly humiliate the him. In one particularly insolent example Stalin had asked for a symphony from Shostakovich (which oddly enough was going to be his 9th). Stalin demanded that it be proportioned to rival Beethoven's ninth in size, content and perfection. This new symphony, Stalin believed, would ultimately and historically embody the massive authority, and great power that was the communist Russia he had created. Shostakovich, after meeting and taking vigorous notes, produced for Stalin that Symphony, his ninth; and the premiere date was set of course with Stalin in attendance. The work commenced: lighthearted, miniature, almost quip of a symphony. Just to give you an idea, one of the main themes in the first movement sounds like the "Oscar Meyer Wiener song." As his new emasculating masterpiece (forever inscribed with his name) continued, Stalin finally stood up and stopped the concert in its first movement. Shostakovich was exiled. This would not be the only time he would be punished for humiliating the communist regime and Stalin publicly, and he was lucky he wasn't murdered on the spot. This is just one example of the journey that was the life of Dmitri Shostakovich, however it is in the notes of the music that you are about to hear where the real story unfolds. You will hear just the 'melody' from a simple, sad folk song, sung by a man who lived his entire life under the thumb of arrogant ignorance; and risked life and limb accepting the heavy burden of being the voice for the people.
[playing time: 3 minutes]