Mariss Jansons speaks about Shostakovich, music in wartime, society’s struggles

Posted on: April 11, 2016

In an interview on Sunday (4/10) at Chicago classical radio station WFMT, Mariss Jansons speaks with Michael San Gabino about “the power of Shostakovich’s music and how it still resonates today.” Jansons conducts the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” Symphony on April 17 at Chicago’s Symphony Center, as part of the orchestra’s current U.S. tour. Jansons was “born in Soviet-controlled Latvia [and] would go on to study at the Leningrad Conservatory and eventually conduct the Leningrad Philharmonic.… Shostakovich began Symphony No. 7 (‘Leningrad’) in the summer of 1941 before he evacuated to Kuibyshev. The completed symphony received its premiere in Kuibyshev on March 5, 1942.” Says Jansons, “The whole atmosphere of this symphony is not only about the war but it is also about everything that is negative and human beings struggling…. This symphony will last forever because the individual’s view of society, the struggle between good and bad energy, hope and depression—these ideas Shostakovich expressed will always exist, even in our world now…. There is not a rule that a composer must write about political situations. Newspapers and television, yes, they must immediately react. But of course if the composer wants to express their feelings, they must write and express.”

Posted April 11, 2016

Pictured: A Soviet soldier buys a ticket to the Leningrad Radio Orchestra’s performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 under conductor Karl Eliasberg, August 1942.