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Celebrating Shostakovich at y-stanbul's CRR Concert Hall.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- ystanbul's Cemal ReE-it Rey Concert Hall (CRR) is in the midst of celebrating the life and work of the great Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. A total of eight concerts span from Nov. 11 through the 19th, and they include a great deal of the composer's lesser-known music. Violinist and conductor Hakan E[currency]ensoy directed the programming and serves as host before each concert with an onstage chat with Serhan Bali, publisher of Andante magazine, music critic at the Radikal daily and radio host.

This mini-festival of Shostakovich is the first of its kind for CRR. But the first few concerts were sparsely attended because, frankly, not many people knew about it. The advertising was minimal -- only a few pages in the CRR's three-month brochure to let us know in advance. This aspect was unfortunate, since the rich programming and variety of international artists were certainly worth spending a few extra lira for additional marketing. So, here in Today's Zaman, I'll do my bit for the cause; three more concerts are scheduled on Tuesday, Nov. 19.

Amidst the mono-diet of what I call "top-40 classics" elsewhere in ystanbul, this kind of welcome retrospective is what is needed to balance out the vast amount of 18th and 19th-century concert programming in our concert venues. I often compare the public's attitudes to modern music to some responses to contemporary art. It adds another layer of reflection to consider that it could be beyond hanging something pretty on your wall. I'm reminded of a recent exhibit at ystanbul's ARTER Gallery by Mat Collishaw; the British artist says he likes to "present my pessimism with a little romance and beauty." His "Venal Muse" series of seven artificial exotic flowers, each posed and pampered in separate glass boxes, is actually an expose -- through phenomenally beautiful artistic creations. "They live in poisoned soil" is how he explains the cancerous growths attached to them. "They are genetically engineered and each flower is named after a hazardous waste company."

In a similar spirit, Shostakovich (1906-1975) cleverly embedding leftist outrage under the veneer of rightist (or "pretty") formulas in his music. Because of this, I consider him one of the cultural heroes of the 20th century. He lived during the post-Bolshevik Leninist government, and then the Communist era Soviet Union, and achieved renown despite being under the thumb of the mercurial and conditional patronage of the Soviet regime. Shostakovich couched his anger, dissidence and despair in his music. He defied fascism with art in a life of struggle under conditions that ultimately killed him.

His neo-classic style was frequently denounced by authorities; his use of Jewish themes and Jewish artists in his music got him into hot water; Stalin's ministers fueled unjustly fierce criticism in the press; and he witnessed his family and friends being imprisoned or killed. He was required to join the Communist Party in order to serve as general secretary of the Composers' Union -- one of many ways to elude reproach. Despite all this, he managed to find a way to produce compositions of great sophistication that, in a way, documented a protracted time of oppressive terror in the 20th century.

His music, however, is not all doom and gloom. On the contrary, he wrote many light-hearted works that show wry humor and whimsy through comic waltzes, buffoonish subjects (an opera "The Nose" and the satirical "Song of the Flea"), film scores and effervescent jazz suites. Oddly, though, those aren't the ones that are part of the popular repertory. The most often-heard works are his symphonies No. 5 and 7, his piano quintet and his opera "Lady MacBeth of the Mtsensk District" -- works of great seriousness and irony.

On Nov. 11 and 12, five short concerts were crammed into the two days, starting with a foyer concert at 4 p.m. on the 11th, performed by the trio of violinist Sevil Ulucan, cellist Erman ymayhan and pianist GE-lru Ensari. They played Shostakovich's Piano Trio No. 2. Then, at 5 p.m., the Albanian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra String Quartet (Kuarteti Harkor RTSH) performed the first movement of Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 8 and Quartet No. 10. All pieces shared a similarity of mood, largely pensive and foreboding.

At 8 p.m., American pianist Alexander Frey played an unusual program of the composer's lesser-known works. "3 Fantastic Dances" were some of his first pieces, written at age 16. As a finale, Frey performed Act I from the 3-hour ballet "The Bolt," 14 scenes with spoken descriptive titles for each, which were reminiscent of an accompaniment to a silent film. Frey spoke from the stage, explaining that due to its use of parody, the huge work was banned after its premiere. One example within was "The Bureaucrat," whose cartoonish musical language could easily have been construed as mocking. Frey performed again on Nov. 12 six of Shostakovich's 24 "Preludes and Fugues." They are interesting only as etudes of a sort, and less compelling as a group since they all had the same tempos and stylistic similarities. But hearing these more academic and less socio-politically imbued pieces gave added perspective to Shostakovich's prolific output. Pianist GE[micro]khan Aybulus then joined Frey for the exhilarating "Concertino for Two Pianos," giving us the charm and the energy that that the preludes didn't supply.

On Nov. 12, the Ephesus Quartet and pianist Toros Can launched into the piano quintet with zest. It's a work that glows and shifts like a kaleidoscope, expressing the gamut from somnolescent turpitude to a sizzling rocket launch. Mr. Can was chiefly responsible for maintaining the necessary forward drive throughout.

"Shostakovich Days" continues on Nov. 19. The three back-to-back concerts start at 4 p.m. with a free event in the foyer with pianist Aybulus. The hall concert at 5 p.m. features cellist Ramon Jaffe and pianist David Boldrini. The grand finale concert at 8 p.m. features the CRR Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hakan E[currency]ensoy, performing Symphony No. 10 and Violin Concerto with soloist Cihat AE-kyn.

Cemal ReE-it Rey (1904-1985), a composer himself, would be thrilled that one of his contemporaries is being honored in this way.

(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Nov 15, 2013
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