Ulster Orchestra: Leningrad! – Conductor: Rafael Payare
Strauss Also sprach Zarathustra
Shoshtakovich Symphony No.7 Leningrad
Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra opens with Sunrise, the movement made famous after its inclusion on the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but there’s much more to this work. Inspired by Nietzsche’s philosophical novel of the same name, Strauss’s tone poem explores the development of humankind, from the Birth of Reason in that opening Sunrise through to the piece’s enigmatic end – the question of the balance between humanity and the universe is explored, but not resolved.
The writing of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony took place during the siege of Leningrad and the common knowledge that he was writing a work in support of the Russian people’s resistance to the Nazis was of huge, morale-boosting importance. Though Shostakovich subsequently made it clear that the work was not solely about the Nazis, but all forms of fascism and terror – and in fact he had begun work on the piece before the Nazi invasion, so the work was inspired by the oppression of the Stalinist regime as much as Hitler’s – the work was particularly potent with resonance for the inhabitants of Leningrad. From the first movement’s repeated, unrelenting ‘invasion theme’, to a final (for now…) victory through resilience, this powerful symphony tells the story of the Russian people’s resistance in the midst of tragedy and suffering, their dogged hope and individual courage, which led to their eventual victory.
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Published on 18 March 2019