“there is something incredibly rewarding about exploring a concert program over a period of two to three months with people who have chosen to give of their time and talent for the joy of making music. Sometimes the first rehearsal doesn't sound so good, but by the concerts, the group is playing very well – and musically, with a solid interpretation of the works on the program. Each rehearsal shows noticeable results. Players in the symphony sometimes look tired when they arrive for the 7:00 pm rehearsal after working a regular job at the office, but often at 9:30 pm they are more energized and smiling more than when they arrived. I find the special journey from the very first rehearsal to the final concert with the people of the TBS highly rewarding. I’m a teacher by nature, and the community orchestra setting allows my educator/coach personality a chance to emerge more than it normally gets to in a one-week professional engagement period. That’s not to say that I’m ‘teaching’ them all the time, though. Quite the contrary, they have taught me so much about leading a large orchestra of eighty and have brought the notes on the page to life.”
“I would say a confluence of events at the time of picking this program: Copland’s Lincoln Portrait and the Shostakovich Fifth Symphony. At the time I was conducting Fiddler on the Roof which…. At this time, Russian and Ukraine were also all over the headlines. I kept thinking about Soviet oppression and how even though the USSR collapse in 1991, there are still so many examples in 2015 of oppression of the people. And, if you are oppressing the people, you are oppressing artistic spirit. This is where Shostakovich managed a triumph of sorts. In 1936, his writing had been called into question as being anti-Soviet. Masses of people were being executed during this time in Russia, and not just his art, but his very life were at stake. He published his 5th Symphony with the phrase “a Soviet artist’s response to just criticism”. Yet, I, and many others, don’t believe he was simply pleasing the authorities. The amazing thing about Shostakovich 5 is that the composer manages to please the authorities and say something deeply meaningful to the common people all at the same time. There is very little marked in the score in terms of words so we must look very carefully at the notes. And a trained musician, can see hundreds of ways Shostakovich was telling his story through the music of the 5th Symphony.
I remember when I first heard this symphony and circumstances surrounding it, and thinking “Huh, Stalin either had a tin ear, or like Richard Strauss, Stefan Zweig, and Joseph Goebbels, Shostakovich was deemed too well-known to just have him executed by Levrenti Beria in the Lubyanka.” However, on reflection, Stalin was paranoid about EVERYTHING and Shostakovich was a master at hiding his sentiments within his music. If nothing else, playing this piece has taught me that. So, I think it's a case of the former and Mark has pointed these things out to us along the way.