I am buffeted about in a whirlwind of preparations for the upcoming Bard Festival, which is devoted to Shostakovich this year. In 12 years in Chicago, I never met a hardcore Shostakovich fan, even among CSO buffs. Likewise eight years in Pennsylvania, nor in all these years of working in New York. But upon moving to the Hudson Valley, I suddenly found Shostakovich peripheral no more. Composers around here quote his tunes in their own works; every young string player practices the Shostakovich sonatas and quartets; the Eighth Quartet is such a staple in chamber music concerts I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard it; and new music fans here plan life around Shostakovich concerts with an avidity that musicians in my circle reserve for the rare Partch or Feldman performance. I’ve never minded hearing a Shostakovich work played, but his music doesn’t grow on me, even with as many Eighth Quartets as I’ve heard and as many CDs of the symphonies I’ve bought trying to spark an interest. If his music disappeared from concert and recorded life tomorrow I wouldn’t pause long to think about it. Other places I’ve lived, I didn’t have to count that among my many musical eccentricities, but in the Husdon Valley it’s been added to the list.
There are other ways in which the Hudson Valley is different. For instance, classical students around here cite the late Robert Starer among their favorite composers, a name that would barely register recognition anywhere else in the country.