Scott has a number of rules by which he lives: the couple I usually remember, but tend to blur in my mind, are "Never trust a man in a beret" and "Never buy a green suit." I'm pretty sure I've done both, if "suit" can include a dress and jacket ensemble. This evening, I do believe, a new rule has been added--at least if I have anything to say about it: "Never go to a Shostokovich symphony." Most assuredly, never go to hear his bullet, the Leningrad Symphony, is engraved upon both of our hearts. I swear the siege itself could not have felt so long. And I'm sure a diet of rats could not have felt so repetitive as that second movement.
It is possible that there is a nice 35 or even 45 minutes of music in the piece but it goes on, unfortunately, for close to 80 minutes. Comrade Dmitri manages to make it that long by taking one nice little phrase and repeating it for half an hour. I wish to hell I were exaggerating. That second movement had me thinking wistfully of Dorothy Parker's review of some play or other in which she shot herself. Had I a gun with me this evening, I likely would have done the same during that second movement. Midway through the fourth, however, I was feeling more public-spirited and likely would have shot key members of the symphony. I think they might have thanked me; certainly the audience would have. Scott noted that the man sitting next to the second violinist had a huge grin on his face when he turned the final page of the score. I didn't notice him but I did note when the person next to the first violinist turned that page. Alas, it turns out that the final fifteen minutes are another single phrase, played over and over again. I have guns on the brain (perhaps because the guest conductor reminded Scott of Chekhov--who doesn't these days, one might ask); I assume that the score actually has the couple of bars of music and then a note to the musician to repeat until she wishes to shoot herself and then continue for another eternity. The crowd, needless to say, went wild when it was over: I assume from a sense of relief and libertion.
It's too bad that the Shostikovich was so very tiresome as the first piece, Alfred Schnittke's Violn Concerto No. 4, was quite fine, with unexpected turns. At times it seemed like walking through a music festival hearing snatches of a bunch of different performances. That may not sound very coherent, I suppose, and I really have no idea how one movement may have related to the next (though there were a few recurring themes) but I found myself thinking that I wanted the piece to continue and was repeatedly happy when it did. "What's it going to do *now*?" I'd ask myself. The soloist, Alexander Velinzon, seemed to know his way around a violin too. Honestly, we'd be feeling a lot happier about the Seattle Symphony had we left at intermission.