Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Muti Conducts Shostakovich 6

Riccardo Muti leads the CSO in Shostakovich's Symphony No. 6. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

On this Chicago Symphony Orchestra radio broadcast, Riccardo Muti leads Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6 in B Minor and Liszt’s Mazeppa. The program, recorded in September 2019,  also includes the world premiere of Rands’ DREAM for Orchestra, Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture and Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night recorded for CSO Sessions.

Listen here:

Shostakovich’s Sixth Symphony

After his triumphant Fifth Symphony, Dmitri Shostakovich was in the good graces of Soviet authorities. There was a widespread expectation that his Sixth Symphony would be another heroic work in a populist mould. And the composer seems to have had this in mind when he announced his plans to write a symphonic tribute to Vladimir Lenin. But somewhere along the line, that concept was shelved, or at least sidetracked.

When the Sixth Symphony finally got its premiere, there was nothing particularly characteristic of Lenin — or anyone else for that matter. The Soviet press was muted in its response. Some listeners were outright baffled by its unusual form and lack of chest-thumping rhetoric. Instead of a traditional four-movement structure, Shostakovich opts for three: a large, introspective first movement, a gleeful, even sinister scherzo, and a whirlwind finale that seems to have one foot in the Russian circus tent. 

The Sixth Symphony may be best understood in the context of Shostakovich’s life and career. Premiered in 1939, before his wartime symphonies, the Sixth is like Shostakovich himself: at times moody, introverted, unpredictable, and yet, steeped in Russian traditions.

Broadcast available through February 13, 2023

Mendelssohn Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture, Op. 27
Riccardo Muti conductor
September 2019

Rands DREAM for Orchestra
World premiere
Liszt Mazeppa, Symphonic Poem No. 6
Riccardo Muti conductor
November 2019

Schoenberg Transfigured Night, Op. 4
Matous Michal violin
Simon Michal violin
Weijing Wang viola
Danny Lai viola
Kenneth Olsen cello
Karen Basrak cello
March 2021

Shostakovich Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 54
Riccardo Muti conductor
September 2019

Brian Wise producer
Charlie Post audio engineer
Lisa Simeone host

Top photo: © Todd Rosenberg Photography