July 16 & December 31, 2020

Shostakovich Symphony No. 9

This Omaha Symphony performance was recorded live at the Holland Performing Arts Center on October 18, 2019.

If the brevity of Shostakovich's delighful neoclassical jaunt of a Symphony No. 9 surprises you, that's because it's meant to. With this work, Shostakovich broke form by holding strictly to it—18th century sonata form, that is. Hear Maestro Bahl lead your Omaha Symphony in a performance of this work from his most recent guest conducting appearance.

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Omaha Symphony · Maestro Bahl Conducts Part III - Shostakovich Symphony No. 9

Program Notes

by Dani Meier, Vice President of Artistic Administration and Omaha Symphony Bassist

I love Shostakovich’s music because I love to live dangerously.

Okay, false: but I do love hearing the results of Shostakovich living dangerously.

Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony was a perfect storm of historical significance meeting superstition. After a USSR victory in World War II, officials expected a Beethoven-esque, propaganda-filled extravaganza for the ages. Fittingly, it was also Shostakovich’s turn to face the “Curse of the Ninth,” the belief that to attempt a ninth symphony was to welcome instantaneous death. (Fun fact: Mahler cleverly composed un-numbered symphonic works but still fell to the Curse before he could complete his tenth symphony.)

Here’s the thing, though – Shostakovich had bigger things to worry about, like Stalin, and the people who worked for Stalin.

So… with the expectation of heroic grandeur over him, he chose to produce… this. His delightful, sarcastic, risk-a-laugh-out-loud Ninth, the musical equivalent of sticking your tongue out to the Man. That is living dangerously, and good gracious is it fun. Themes range from ridiculous to downright terrifying: lonely clarinets suck all the air out of the room, blazing trumpets roar over raging strings, violin solos resemble plucky students taking on a particularly irksome teacher… by the time the principal bassoon emerges from the brass chorales in the fourth movement, you won’t be sure if it’s safe to move. And yet, that courageous solo bassoon line takes us back over the line to a love of the fight and a barnburner of a finale. All the good stuff is here: adrenaline, visceral emotion, virtuosic features for my colleagues, and a healthy dose of risk courtesy of the composer. Curse of the Ninth be darned: Shostakovich went on to write six more symphonies, and we’re better for it. You will be too if you catch this one – listen now, from wherever you are.

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