Shostakovich’s Farewell Symphony and Kirill Glushenko’s installation explore a forever frozen moment of eternity.
Dmitry Shostakovich composed his final symphony in record time — in all but a month. Throughout July of 1971, Shostakovich worked in the solitude of a composer’s residence in Repino, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, bringing to a close his creative and life path. The Fifteenth Symphony’s retrospective nature is underlined by Shostakovich’s uncharacteristic use of the collage technique: the fragile musical fabric is held together by citations from the overture to Rossini’s opera William Tell (1829) and to Wagner’s Ring Cycle (1876) and Tristan and Isolde (1865). Parts of the sym-phony are filled with «bright sadness, ” to borrow Pushkin’s turn of phrase, and recall Glinka’s romances. The round dance of shadows from works by Shostakovich himself hints at the autobiographical nature of this confes-sional symphony: the composer сonsiders his past and listens attentively to the history of music, of which he undoubtedly already felt himself to be a part. In the symphony’s final movement, signs and symbols whose meanings have puzzled more than a generation of Shostakovich scholars erase themselves as if from a board, dissolving into the rarefied air of the Fifteenth like mysterious letters. In the symphony’s concluding bars, the fading pulse of the time of human life, running out like grains of sand in an hourglass, gives way to the stopped time of eternity.
Kirill Gluschenko’s Venets installation (2017–2022) is also dedicated to a forever frozen moment of eternity. Glushenko’s installation recreates a room of the twenty- three-storied Venets (Crown) hotel, built in Ulyanovsk in 1970 to mark the hundredth anniversary of Lenin’s birth, a year before Shostakovich completed his Fifteenth Symphony. Gluschenko set off to Ulyanovsk as a correspondent for Gluschenkoizdat — a fictitious publishing house that runs very real books, in a single copy: all are dedicated to everyday life in different Russian cities, their history and architecture. Over the course of his trip, Glushenko spent seventeen days at the already partially refurbished Venets hotel, during which time he studied the archives of local museums and original documents of the Ulyanovsk Regional CPSU Committee, and spoke with hotel employees, architects, photographers, and journalists who had witnessed the Soviet Union-wide effort of constructing Lenin memorials in the leader’s birthplace. The Venets hotel was then cast as the «crowning» achievement of Soviet modernism, the highest standard of everyday life. Reconstructing a fragment of the three-roomed luxury suite from old photographs, Gluschenko sought to fathom the essence of the Soviet ideal and the mechanics of its production. These standard hotel rooms seem like Brezhenvian time capsules conserving the spirit of the Stagnation Era — the period in which Shostakovich lived and worked, and which, in the words of the anthropologist Alexey Yurchak, seemed as if it «was forever, until it was no more.» The ringing emptiness of a hotel room sunk in history complements the score of Shostakovich’s farewell composition and the existential intensity of the inner life lived through this period.
Dmitry Shostakovich (1906–1975)
Symphony no. 15 in A Major, op. 141, 1971
IV. Adagio — Allegretto — Adagio — Allegretto
Symphony Orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic
℗ Melodiya, 2022