Dmitri Shostakovich played a mean piano. The Russian composer (1906-1975) often converted the piano into a percussion instrument, using its upper register like an xylophone, shooting out sharp staccatos. You can watch his kinetic keyboarding on YouTube.com by searching for "young Shostakovich."
Shostakovich was an even greater composer, and you can enjoy one of his finest works when the Craftsbury Chamber Players present his Piano Quintet in G minor, Opus 57, on July 15 and 16.
Monica Ohuchi will be at the piano. Ohuchi captured first prize at the Chinese International Piano Competition when she was only five. She is also the only two-time national champion of the Music Teacher's National Association Piano Competition. Expect Shostakovich-like skill and piano pyrotechnics.
The Quintet is a model of grandeur and clarity. Shostakovich wrote the work in 1940 at the request of a string quartet that wanted to play with him. At the time, most of Europe was engulfed in war, and the Soviet Union was precariously protected by a non-aggression agreement entered into by Hitler and Stalin. Hitler would soon break the pact.
Shostakovich worried not only about imminent war, but about Stalin himself. Four years earlier, the Soviet dictator had walked out of a performance of a Shostakovich opera that Pravda branded "Muddle Instead of Music." Those who incurred Stalin's wrath, politically or culturally, did not last long.
Shostakovich need not have been nervous. The five-part Quintet was an enormous success and won the Stalin Prize in 1941. Pravda praised the composition for its "depth and magnificence."
From its Bachian Prelude, through the unrestrained, almost-humorous mid-point Scherzo, to the triumphant Finale, the Quintet is, in the words of famed violinist Rostislav Dubinsky, "the last ray of light before the future sank into a dark gloom."
The first of six summer Craftsbury Chamber Players concerts will take place in the University of Vermont Recital Hall on July 15 at 8 pm. Haydn's Trio in E Major, H 15/28, and Martinu's Duo No. 2 for Violin and Viola round out the premiere program.
Other concerts will be presented on July 22, July 29, Aug. 5, and Aug. 12. Each concert is repeated the following day at the Hardwick Town House in Hardwick.
For full information about concert content and ticket prices, go to www.craftsburychamberplayers.org www.craftsburychamberplayers.org or call 800-639-3443.