Hedgehogs - Shostakovich The Jazz Album

One of our hedgehogs

One of our hedgehogs

We seem to have an abundance of hedgehogs in our garden at night, we think it is because the ground is so hard they are finding it difficult to forage for insects and so come to eat the Daddy Longlegs (or skittles as we call them) that dance about on the lawn.  We are rather fond of them and have started feeding them with some revolting smelling hedgehog food called "Spikes" which they eat with great relish.

The Jazz Album is a cheerful and lively foray into the lighter music of the composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975).  For those who view Shostakovich as a sombre composer who wrote about the woes of Soviet Russia, this album will come as a light relief.

Shostakovich The Jazz Album

Shostakovich The Jazz Album

I find much of Shostakovich’s music intriguing, not least because he spent his formative years composing under the appalling regime of Stalin.  The dictator particularly liked the work of Shostakovich which caused great anxiety to the composer as he always felt he had a gun at his head  Having survived in a society where artists were so controlled, unable to produce their work from the heart Shostakovich died a broken man in 1975.

Dmitri Shostakovich

Dmitri Shostakovich

In the early 1930s composers were encouraged to write popular music to keep the proletariat happy, this was often music to dance to.  The Jazz Suite No 1 was written in 1934 and is written for a small orchestra in three movements, it reflects the exuberance and decadence of the 1920s.   The Jazz Suite No 2, is the better known and  was written as a commission for the State Jazz Ensemble in 1938, firmly rooted in the Vienna of Johann Strauss, it has a much lighter jazzier feel and is particularly known for it’s second waltz.

The appalling regime of Josef Stalin

The appalling regime of Josef Stalin

The Concerto for Trumpet, Piano and String Orchestra was hugely popular with the communist party and particularly put Shostakovich in favour.  Everything was smooth for a while until Stalin walked out of his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk District at which point the composer knew he was skating on thin ice and any mistake could have him sent to the labour camps.

Conductor Riccardo Chailly

Conductor Riccardo Chailly

Tahiti Trot is an orchestration of the song “Tea for Two”.  Shostakovich and his friend the conductor, Nikolai Malko heard it on the radio at which point Malko bet the composer that he couldn’t re-orchestrate the song from memory in under an hour.  Shostakovich won and completed it in around 45 minutes.

Conductor Riccardo Chailly recently won the prestigious top prize awarded at this years Gramophone Awards for conducting the Brahms Symphony Cycle with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig..  He has been described as a man who 'epitomises classical music's reinvention'.

Listen to Jazz Suite No 2 - Waltz II on YouTube    
Tahiti Trot on YouTube     
Download the Jazz Album from iTunes  
Buy from Amazon    

Posted on October 3, 2014 .