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Shostakovich Sonata No.2 Mov1 and 2. Valentina Lisitsa

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Uploaded on Sep 16, 2011

We all wonder from time to time how things look on "other " side" , but resign to the thought that nobody came back from "there" to tell us how things are. With a few exceptions...
Dante had created his own , albeit imagined , Inferno. Shostakovich descended a real inferno, lived through it and came out alive to tell the story , to bear a testimony to the hell on earth. What else can you call it when people -- bright , thinking , loving people -- millions of them - are sentenced to living on 125 grams a day of 50% sawdust bread ration ( and only those able-bodied or well-connected ) , then to eating their pets and pests, belts and shoes ( with scraped off the walls wallpaper paste being an exquisite delicacy ) , then -- their dead , and then -- their living...
This September ( 8th- 21st ) marks 70th anniversary of beginning of Siege of Leningrad, one of the deadliest and darkest episodes in the history of European civilization (if you can still call it a "civilization"). This magnificent city rightly called Venice of the North , a cradle of modern Russia, a hotbed of progressive thought, a showcase of best in Russian art, music, literature -- predestined to the most cruel of death of starvation by two tyrants, dictators -- who despite being on opposing sides of a war , shared a common hatred of humanity. In 900 days of the siege , 1 500 000 people died -- out of population of 2.5 million. Shostakovich , abandoned as the rest of population of Leningrad , lived through it and continued composing. His 7th, "Leningrad" Symphony -- sheet music smuggled across the enemy lines and performed around the globe , was a call of defiance , a promise of eventual victory, of imminent triumph of life over death.
There is nothing triumphal about this sonata. Instead, it is a sad and subdued reflection, a testimony of a witness to an abyss of human suffering and death. Everything is warped here: a waltz turns into a funeral procession, usually "happy" major key episodes are the most sinister and menacing...
First movement is full of foreboding and unease. There are two main themes here . The opening one - in a minor key, rather sad and very sincere . The second theme , in a blazing major key , reminiscent of those awful Soviet-era patriotic marches. If only you can call music "creepy", this theme is a definition of it.
Second movement is a slow and unsteady waltz, constantly on a verge of falling apart. It is more a reminiscence of happier times than a real dance. Waltz bore a special significance in lives of people. It was waltz that commenced a graduation from school , it was waltz that was a first dance at the wedding....In the middle of the movement waltz gives way to bone-chilling half-march half-sarabande theme. You can hear steps of funeral procession , except those steps are hesitant and halting: just like in the "iconic" Leningrad documentary videos of starvelings dragging their deceased in makeshift sleds to common pits while those still alive walk by unfazed.
Third movement to follow...

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