Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Two Russians

Shostakovich and Rothko

Today is notable, among other things, in that it is both the birthday of Dmitri Shostakovich who was born in St Petersburg in 1906, and the birthday of Mark Rothko who was born in Dvinsk, Russia three years earlier to Jacob and Anna Goldin Rothkowitz.  Dmitri would become one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century as he lived long enough to see the end of the Stalin era.  He suffered during that period and this shows in his music, especially the string quartets which rival Beethoven's in their personal intensity.   Mark Rothko's family emigrated to the United States before the great War, settling in Portland Oregon where Mark would begin a life in America that would lead him to a position as one of the leaders of the Abstract Expressionist movement in Art (although he rejected that label).

Shostakovich has always been one of my favorite composers, beginning with my discovery of his symphonies when I was in college, especially my favorites, the Fifth and the Ninth.  I still remember studying the score for the Fifth Symphony on Saturday mornings at the listening room of the local library in Madison, Wisconsin where I was a student at the University.  My love for his music has only expanded over the years with the most recent highlight being attendance at a performance of his comic opera, MOSCOW, CHERYOMUSHKI, at the Chicago Opera Theater earlier this year.

I also recently expanded my appreciation for the work of Mark Rothko when I saw a performance of John Logan's Tony Award-winning drama, Red, about artist Mark Rothko and an assistant at the Goodman Theater last year.  The image on the right is "Four Darks in Red" (1958).

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