Making his Boston Symphony debut, Vladimir Jurowski, principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, is joined by German violinist Arabella Steinbacher for Mendelssohn's sparkling Violin Concerto. The program concludes with Shostakovich's Symphony No. 4, a dark but powerfully majestic work the composer finished in 1936. He withdrew the work prior to its premiere due to fears of official condemnation, writing instead the universally acclaimed, heroic Fifth the following year. The Fourth waited another quarter-century for its first performance.This concert is not part of my subscription, so I wasn't there on Thursday evening (or Friday afternoon). The Boston Globe's reviewer found lots to like in the performance of the Shostakovich and gave mild criticism, in the space he had left, to the Mendelssohn. The review refers to the circumstances of the composition of the symphony and its being withheld from performance. More fully told, the 1930's were the height of Stalin's reign of terror. Musicians and writers were actually killed if Stalin thought that their work was somehow subserve. All art had to support the ideals of the Russian Revolution, and material that was insufficiently expressive of proletarian ideals (by being too formalistic — twelve tone or atonal, for example — or too inaccessible), which amounted to being not to Stalin's taste, was not tolerated. So having had earlier work criticized in Pravda and having seen what had happened to others, Shostakovich was justifiably fearful that presenting the symphony in 1936 could have cost him his life.
As always, you can listen on Classical New England — live this evening or retransmitted on October 21.