Turbulent Times for Many Composers

By Matthew Kraemer, Music Director

Great composers have often created art as a reaction to the turbulent times in which they lived.  Our January concert featured two powerful works written during, or about, dark chapters in Russian and American history.  Dmitri Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet was composed over a three-day period in early July 1960. Dedicated to the memory of the victims of fascism and war, this compact work is one of the most affecting and dramatic works Shostakovich penned.  A prodigious talent, he was put on notice in 1936 by the Stalinist regime in an article entitled “Muddle Instead of Music” and lived for years in fear that his music would offend party officials.  The autobiographical String Quartet No. 8, on which the Chamber Symphony is arranged, quotes themes from his earlier works, features sardonic and striking effects like the “knocks on the door,” and includes a musical anagram of Shostakovich’s initials in each movement.

Amy Porter performing Trail of Tears at the Schrott with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra

The forced relocation of roughly 60,000 Native Americans, known as the Trail of Tears, is a tragic moment in American history. Michael Daugherty writes, “My flute concerto is a musical journey into how the human spirit discovers ways to deal with upheaval, adversity and adapting to a new environment.” His concerto abounds with beautiful, colorful, and heartrending storytelling. We were delighted to share the stage with marvelous flutist Amy Porter, who premiered the concerto and to whom it is dedicated.

Ludwig van Beethoven was as revolutionary a musical force as any composer that lived.  He was also a staunch believer in universal brotherhood, abhorring tyranny and the aristocracy.  His groundbreaking Third Symphony was initially dedicated to Napoleon.  Once the French general declared himself Emperor, Beethoven famously scratched the inscription from the title page of the score.  This anti-tyrannical penchant runs through many of Beethoven’s works, including Egmont, the Ninth Symphony, and his only opera, Fidelio (which the ICO performs in May).  In honor of the iconic composer’s 250th birth year, the ICO performed one of his most joyful and optimistic works, the Eighth Symphony.

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