The Columbus Symphony Orchestra performs “Two Great Symphonies” Saturday night. The concert will feature the orchestra playing Mahler’s “Adagio” movement of his unfinished “Symphony No. 10” and Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 11 in G-Minor, Opus 103” or “The Year 1905.” The program features live program notes and a musical demonstration.
There is no guest artist for this performance, so George Del Gobbo, the orchestra’s conductor and music director, says the orchestra will have its own chance to shine.
“We’d better showcase the orchestra,” he said.
Del Gobbo said this will be the first time the Shostakovich symphony will be performed in Columbus.
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“We wanted to do it for a long time,” he said. “It’s a substantial piece of music and difficult for the orchestra.”
Del Gobbo likes to keep his musicians on their toes, and having them learn such a difficult piece of music is not only good for them, but a challenging piece for the audience as well.
To complement the Shostakovich symphony, Del Gobbo decided to pair it with the first movement from Mahler’s final, unfinished symphony.
“It’s an incredible adagio,” he said. “It’s 25 minutes and it includes all sorts of things … It’s like a world of itself.”
The Mahler piece, Del Gobbo said, is a good example of a symphony written in the late 19th century, while the Shostakovich symphony is an example of the work that was being done in the 20th century.
And Shostakovich influenced many composers for years afterward.
“Symphony No. 11,” written in 1957, is a narrative work that tells the story about the Russian Revolution of 1917.
“It’s quite a remarkable piece,” Del Gobbo said. “A lot of people compare it, rightly or wrongly, to a film score. Each movement has a title. It’s not just abstract, absolute music. It is meant to evoke places and events and does it very well.”
Del Gobbo said many film composers “borrow” Shostakovich’s ideas for their own scores.
“Most of the audience probably has never heard this piece, but it’s not avant garde in any way. It’s very accessible music.”
Del Gobbo said Shostakovich wrote music in Communist Russia to please Stalin, but also to give hope to the oppressed Russian people.
“He survived and yet his music is not a sell-out,” Del Gobbo said.
He said both the Mahler and the Shostakovich pieces are “very, very difficult.”
“These are two pieces that (the musicians) don’t get to play that often. A lot of musicians look forward to this opportunity.”
“It is not a huge orchestra, but it will sound big. The music will be loud.”