on Shostakovich’s violin concerto at Oberlin

I listened to the Oberlin recording of the Shostakovich violin concerto (begins at 29 minutes and 40 seconds) just to see how I’d review it were I assigned to. Sure enough, as with any performance, I found those little things that bother me – the intro to the passacaglia’a heavy disconnected brass and percussion, sounding like individual weights falling to the floor instead of the beginnings of a landslide. The whole ensemble lurching in the scherzo, and the slight fatigued drag in the burlesque. These are things I know how to write about.

I don’t know how to write about the feeling of a deep red something, being pulled in a widening spiral out of my chest, as the passacaglia relentlessly rolled along, a giant wheel on a frozen road.

That moment (two seconds on the recording, felt like forever in the balcony) between the passacaglia and cadenza. I looked at my friend next to me. The lights in Finney weren’t all that dimmed, but his eyes were blown open.

The cadenza was long, and I was sure Lesser’s strings had taken on some divine property, turning the sound into the cry of some raw, pure being beyond this level of consciousness, the aura of which humans can only scoop into with the tips of their fingers.

All my attempts turn a firework into a cell phone photograph of a firework.


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