Apr. 2nd, 2017

sawyl: (A self portrait)
With the announcement of the death of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, what else but the shocking opening of Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 13. The movement sets the words of Yevtushenko's Babi Yar, a savage attack on Soviet indifference to the massacre of 100,000 Jews by the nazis and anti-semitism in the Soviet Union.

The poem links the ancient persecution of the Israelites with the Dreyfus Affair, the Białystok pogrom, and the capture of Anne Frank before eventually returning to the . At each point, the poet imagines himself in the place of those being attacked, eventually returning to the present to find him standing in the ravine at Babi Yar and mourning those murdered there.

Shostakovich's setting, strongly influenced by Mussorgsky, begins with a dirge like opening before the bass soloist, the voice of the poet, opens his narrative. There are sharp stabs from the brass when the poet talks of Dreyfus being poked with umbrellas; punches from the percussion as a child is kicked while the chorus jeer and chant anti-semitic slogans; darkness in the lower registers while poet imagines Anne Frank as a delicate branch, with the glockenspiel playing what should be a sweet melody above it all; finally the poet is pulled back to the present by a savage orchestral outburst that mirrors the breaking down of the Franks' door.

It's an astonishingly powerful creation that finds words and music working in concert to remind us that past evils must never be forgotten and that they form a continuous chain with the present.


The bass soloist here is Alexander Vinogradov with Philippe Jordan conducting the Orchestre de l'Opéra national de Paris.

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