I was in a store, and heard an ad on a classical station for a Shostakovich festival put on by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. “Celebrate Shostakovich,” said the ad, “with spectacular performances.” Or something like that. “Celebrate” and “spectacular” were certainly words the ad used. I pulled out my little notebook and wrote them down.
This was ridiculous, of course, and almost offensive. Shostakovich isn’t celebratory or spectacular. He’s bitter, wry, and painful. Yes, he’s dramatic, but not in spectacular ways.
This is yet another way in which classical music is drained of all meaning. Who cares what Shostakovich really is? It’s classical music! It’s a celebration! It’s big, grand, and colorful! Can anyone imagine talking about any other serious art this way?
“Celebrate Spielberg, with his spectacular Schindler’s List.” That would just about be obscene.