2017 Winter Lecture Series

Shostakovich and Prokofiev:
Art and Legacy

Prokofiev and Shostakovich.jpg

8 Wednesday Evenings with Russell Steinberg, Ph.D.

January 18- March 8, 2017, 7:00-9:00PM
(Lectures in Encino, CA—address will be provided)

Complete Series: $400 Individual Evenings: $55 


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Week 5 February 15—Russian Symphonists
Shostakovich Symphony No. 7
Prokofiev Symphony No. 5

Week 6 February 22—Film Music
Shostakovich The Gadfly Suite
Prokofiev Lt. Kijé Suite

Week 7 March 1—Chamber Music
Prokofiev Flute Sonata in D Major
Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 2 in E Minor

Week 8 March 8—Legacy
Shostakovich Testimony
Shostakovich and Prokofiev Reappraisals

Week 1 January 18—Two 20th Century "Classics"
Biographical Sketches
Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet
Shostakovich Symphony No. 5

Week 2 January 25—Piano Works
Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues
Prokofiev Visions Fugitives

Week 3 February 1—Prokofiev in depth
Classical Symphony
Piano Concerto No. 3

Week 4 February 8—Shostakovich in depth
Cello concerto No. 1
String Quartet No. 8

Along with Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Prokofiev were the pre-eminent Russian composers of the 20th century. But unlike Stravinsky, who fled Russia permanently at the outbreak of WWI, the destinies of Shostakovich and Prokofiev were inextricably linked to the repressive Soviet regime under Stalin. Their compositions often had dramatic political ramifications. Shostakovich feared for his life after Stalin instigated an editorial that attacked his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Prokofiev, who voluntarily returned to the Soviet Union in the 1930s, discovered he too was denounced, and denied commissions and performances. If they wrote in their natural modernist style, they were called "formalists." But even when they wrote in their more accessible neoclassic style, they were sometimes dubbed "deviant" or "vulgar." Nevertheless Soviet audiences thrilled to many of their works, and Western audiences found the music of both composers far more attractive and accessible than works by European modernists like Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. 

It is fascinating how American classical listeners have shifted their preference between Shostakovich and Prokofiev. Through most of the 20th century, Prokofiev was far more popular. His ballets, symphonies, and concerti were programmed more frequently than music of Shostakovich. But today in the 21st century, interest and appreciation in Shostakovich's music has soared. He is widely considered among the most significant musical voices from the 20th century, spoken of in the same breath as Stravinsky, Bartok, and Schoenberg. 

What happened? Is it a question of just changing taste, relevancy, or does it have something to do with our post-modern culture? We will explore this question through the context of a variety of works by both composers, beginning with two of their "classics"—Shostakovich's Symphony No.5 and Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, then to their piano music, chamber music, concertos, symphonies, and even film music. 

Each evening will combine piano demonstrations with recordings and spirited discussion. These evenings are open to all curious music lovers. No previous knowledge of Shostakovich and Prokofiev or technical musical understanding is required. The goal is simply to stimulate appreciation and a lifelong love for two of the world’s most creative and imaginative composers.  

Responses from past lecture participants

Insightful yet understandable analysis of the musical structure of each piece with an infectious enthusiasm and excitement about the pure joy of beautiful music!
Barry and Wendy Feinberg

We were mesmerized by the insights you gave us about the program.
Carlos Carossino

The concert was wonderful but made more enjoyable after your talk. The fellow sitting next to me, who I never saw before, kept referring to your comments.
Howard Ader

I thoroughly enjoy your wonderful lectures.  They are educational, interactive and fun!  I also appreciate the genuine passion you express.
Sue Chen