In certain circles, debate rages over just what Dmitri Shostakovich meant with the end of his Fifth Symphony, which he wrote under the repressive Stalinist regime. Is the blazing, pounding finale supposed to sound triumphantly celebratory? Or does it represent the police bludgeoning the Soviet people into submission? For option A, play it fast and bright. For option B, play it slow and heavy. On an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert from March, guest conductor Hugh Wolff goes with option B.
Contrasting with that intense (and intensely scrutinized) piece, the first half of the program offers the lively School for Scandal Overture by Samuel Barber and the gorgeous, rhapsodic Piano Concerto Robert Schumann wrote for his wife, Clara, to premiere. As soloist we'll hear Nicholas Angelich ("AHN-ge-litch"). He has been called one of classical music's future superstars.
Conductor Hugh Wolff (right) recently returned to the U.S., together with his wife and three teenaged sons, after several years based in Europe. As a teenager himself, Wolff was a pianist and composer. He took up conducting as an undergraduate at Harvard. This fall he becomes director of orchestras at the New England Conservatory. Throughout the program Wolff talks with host Sarah Zaslaw about music and life. (He compares the sarcastic, coded second movement of the Shostakovich symphony to Tom and Jerry cartoons, in that you're not always sure if it's funny or brutal.)
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