But for those who don't want to play Beat the Reaper, the question is: How many more Shostakovich symphony concerts can you take? Can you take only the first concert, the concert with the monumental Eleventh treating the martyrs of the 1905 Russian Revolution as if they were victims of any totalitarian regime, coupled with the cyclopedian Sixth, with its opening Largo like a dead and burned-out planet? Can you also take the second concert, with the unrelenting Twelfth treating the biography of Lenin as if it were a social realist action movie, coupled with the inexorable Fourteenth, with its sequence of songs for soprano and bass dedicated to the overwhelming power and awful ubiquity of death? Can you even take the third concert, with the massive Eighth treating the twenty million dead of the Great Patriotic War with the horror, pity, and honor they deserve, coupled with the excruciating Thirteenth, called Babi Yar after Yevtushenko's poem, with its bass soloist and men's chorus condemning the venal and mortal sins of the Soviet state?
The only way to know is to go. Think of it as a musical game of Russian roulette — with six of the chambers loaded.
[Review published October 2006]