On An Overgrown Path is a huge fan of Shostakovich, and has devoted many articles to him in recent months. But if I hear another note of his music on BBC Radio 3 in the next few weeks I am likely to kick in the fronts of my extremely expensive speakers.
Wall to wall Shostakovich makes no more sense than wall to wall Bach cantatas, or wall to wall Wagner. Shostakovich is a first-rate composer, but even his most ardent fans must acknowledge that his music lacks the sheer range that distinguishes a true master such as Beethoven. To put it bluntly an awful lot of Shostakovich sounds the same, and some of it is the aural sound equivalent of secondhand chewing gum. Broadcast single composer marathons lacking the frisson of live performance do no more than grab media headlines and boost short term ratings.
The Government White Paper published yesterday on the future of the BBC gave some hope as it directed that the BBC 'should not merely chase ratings or copy successful shows on other channels.' But that hope was quickly extinguished by the next paragraph which praised the TV show Strictly Come Dancing for its creativity.
Sadly the BBC has turned composer anniversaries into a media friendly stick to beat audiences with. But there is one anniversary this year which shouldn't be overlooked. The influence of Shostakovich is not hard to find in the symphonies of Sir Malcolm Arnold, and in fact Arnold met Shostakovich when he visited Russia as the representative of the UK Musician's Union. I am told that Communist party member Dimitri Kabalevsky also had to be present at these meetings to make sure the two bad-boys of 20th century music didn't misbehave.
Sir Malcolm is 85 this year. Here is a tonic to the current Shostakovich saturation in the form of a four minute long hi-res MP3 download (10.5MB) of the first movement of Arnold's Quintet for Brass (1961). It is scored for two trumpets, horn, trombone and tuba, and is played by a brass quintet from Berkeley, whose members are AJ Shankar, Nikhil Kacker, Kate Stewart, Avik Chatterjee, and Matt Pereira -
Audio linked from Umesh Shankar's Recordings Page. Image credit - BBC . Image owners - if you do not want your picture used in this article please contact me and it will be removed. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Arnold's 9th - neglected 20th century masterpiece?