Soloists Elizabeth Atherton and Peter Rose join Aurora under Nicholas Collon for what promises to be an unforgettable highlight of Kings Places’s Voices Unwrapped series.
“Life is man’s dearest possession… My symphony is an impassioned protest against death, a reminder to the living that they should live honestly, conscientiously, nobly, never committing a base act.” — Shostakovich
Inspired by Mussorgsky’s Songs of Dances and Death, Shostakovich saw his searing Symphony No. 14 as the summation of his musical career, an impassioned response to what he saw as the misguided romanticising of death in European culture. Completed in 1969 as the composer wrestled with the effects of the polio that would eventually kill him, the piece is at once a searingly powerful meditation on death and a dramatic call to recognise the precious value of human life. Scored as a song cycle for two soloists and chamber orchestra of percussion and strings, it combines texts by four poets who themselves each died young: Lorca, Rilke, Apollinaire and Küchelbecker.
Shostakovich dedicated his 14th symphony to Benjamin Britten, who conducted the UK premiere of the work at Snape Maltings in 1970. For this programme the symphony is paired with one of Britten’s most enduringly popular works for string orchestra, the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, and the exquisite Adagietto from Mahler’s fifth symphony.
**** ‘the playing was terrific in its precision, detail and drive.’Guardian
***** ‘Collon caught the urgency of Shostakovich’s feeling, the ensemble… energised from the ground up by a phenomenal double bass section (of two). Both the vocal soloists lived the words and believed the message, turning each song into vivid drama.’The Times