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NEC Philharmonia at Symphony Hall, Wolff / Beethoven, Prokofiev, Shostakovich
Boston, Massachusetts
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 - 8:00 PM
Ensemble: NEC Philharmonia
Conductor: Hugh Wolff
Symphony Hall—that's where the Boston Symphony Orchestra performs, right?

True most nights, except for April 23, when Hugh Wolff brings the NEC Philharmonia back to Symphony Hall in their first appearance there since 2010. The concert is presented in association with the Celebrity Series of Boston.

Read Hugh Wolff's notes on tonight's program.

Read the Boston Musical Intelligencer's review of the 2010 concert.

Hugh Wolff has constructed a program that showcases Artist Diploma violinist Xiang Yu in one of his favorite concertos, Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1. Wolff leads off with the name that adorns the Symphony Hall proscenium: Beethoven's Egmont Overture. And he continues a symphonic cycle that has played out both at NEC's Jordan Hall and in his previous visit to Symphony Hall, with Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 11, "The Year 1905."

Both the Beethoven “Egmont” Overture and the Shostakovich Eleventh (“The Year 1905”) have special revolutionary resonance. Composed 40 years after the 1917 October Revolution and a half century after the anticipatory 1905 Revolution, the Shostakovich received its first performance in Moscow in 1957. It was met with widely mixed reactions. There was disappointment among those who heard socialist realist banality, dawning understanding from more subtle listeners, and high praise from music officialdom—so much high praise, in fact, that Shostakovich was awarded the Lenin Prize for 1958 and was completely rehabilitated from his previous political disfavor. Among the issues cited by all sides was the symphony’s extensive quotation of familiar revolutionary songs and reminiscences of classic Russian scores such as Musssorgsky’s Boris Godunov.

So what is the Symphony No. 11? Shostakovich’s most Russian/ Mussorgskian work? A piece of cinematic-style agit-prop? A commentary on the contemporary crushed Hungarian uprising? A deeply reflective “Requiem for a Generation,” as Shostakovich claimed, according to Solomon Volkov's controversial memoir? The work of a washed-up genius who, after 20 years of suppression, has succumbed to the political juggernaut? Or a beautifully organized work that speaks tragically to the inevitable recurrence of despotism? Listeners will have a chance to decide for themselves at Philharmonia’s performance.
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