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Shostakovich, Walker & Schoenberg

February 12, 2021  |  7:00 PM
Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony (Op. 110a), Walker’s Lyric for Strings, and Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night (Op. 4).
Who Was George Walker?
George Theophilus Walker (June 27, 1922 – August 23, 2018) was an American composer, pianist, and organist, who was the first African American to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1966 for his work Lilacs. In 1945, at the age of 23, he became the first black instrumentalist to appear with the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Ormandy, as the winner of the Philadelphia Youth Auditions. Walker’s Lyric for Strings, the work on this Friday’s  program is often compared to Barber’s Adagio for Strings for its beauty, pathos, and rich melodic lines.
About Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony

Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony is an arrangement for string orchestra of his String Quartet No. 8, which was written in 1960 that was made by the Russian conductor and violist Rudolf Barhsai, and approved by Shostakovich. It is one of several compositions that Shostakovich signed with his musical monogram, a spelling out of his initials in musical notation. This four-note motive is derived from the German transliteration of the composer’s own name, D. SCHostakowitsch. In German notation, E-flat is called “es” and B-natural is H. Thus, DSCH is D, E-flat, C, B. The tradition for this kind of musical signature dates back at least to the time of Bach.
As indicated by this musical signature, this work has deep autobiographical sensibilities. It was inspired by time he spent in the war devastated ruins of Dresden, and he decided to dedicate the score to “the memory of the victims of fascism and war,” a line that ran atop the published score.  But in a letter to a close friend he wrote “I’ve been thinking that when I die, it’s hardly likely that anybody will ever write a work dedicated to my memory. So I have decided to write one myself. The dedication could be printed on the cover: Dedicated to the memory of the composer of this quartet.”
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