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This season at New England Conservatory, 30+ concerts demonstrate just how vital music is to human struggle, and what revolution in artistic expression sounds like. Programs range from roots music to Beethoven, fight songs to anti-war anthems. Join our year-long exploration of how music speaks truth to power!
The Revolution Begins
Symphony Hall—that's where the Boston Symphony Orchestra performs, right?
True most nights, except for April 23, when Hugh Wolff brings the NEC Philharmonia back to Symphony Hall in their first appearance there since 2010. The concert is presented in association with the Celebrity Series of Boston.
Hugh Wolff has constructed a program that showcases Artist Diploma violinist Xiang Yu in one of his favorite concertos, Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1. Wolff leads off with the name that adorns the Symphony Hall proscenium: Beethoven's Egmont Overture. And he continues a symphonic cycle that has played out both at NEC's Jordan Hall and in his previous visit to Symphony Hall, with Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 11, "The Year 1905."
Both the Beethoven “Egmont” Overture and the Shostakovich Eleventh (“The Year 1905”) have special revolutionary resonance. Composed 40 years after the 1917 October Revolution and a half century after the anticipatory 1905 Revolution, the Shostakovich received its first performance in Moscow in 1957. It was met with widely mixed reactions. There was disappointment among those who heard socialist realist banality, dawning understanding from more subtle listeners, and high praise from music officialdom—so much high praise, in fact, that Shostakovich was awarded the Lenin Prize for 1958 and was completely rehabilitated from his previous political disfavor. Among the issues cited by all sides was the symphony’s extensive quotation of familiar revolutionary songs and reminiscences of classic Russian scores such as Musssorgsky’s Boris Godunov.
So what is the Symphony No. 11? Shostakovich’s most Russian/ Mussorgskian work? A piece of cinematic-style agit-prop? A commentary on the contemporary crushed Hungarian uprising? A deeply reflective “Requiem for a Generation,” as Shostakovich claimed, according to Solomon Volkov's controversial memoir? The work of a washed-up genius who, after 20 years of suppression, has succumbed to the political juggernaut? Or a beautifully organized work that speaks tragically to the inevitable recurrence of despotism? Listeners will have a chance to decide for themselves at Philharmonia’s performance. Read more here.
Xiang Yu '12, '14 A.D. took first prize in the 2010 Menuhin Competition for Young Violinists while still a second-year undergraduate at NEC. His prizewinning performances included Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2, heard in the video playlist on this page.
Conductor Hugh Wolff was named NEC's Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Director of Orchestras in 2008, and has brought the Conservatory's orchestral program to a new level of eminence. Wolff has conducted many of the major orchestras around the world, including frequent appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The connection between two Boston musical powerhouses, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and New England Conservatory, goes back to the BSO's origin, and many of NEC's orchestra players study with their BSO counterparts. More on this.
(Photo by Stu Rosner/courtesy BSO)
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