Friday, October 20th​ at 7:30 pm


First Presbyterian Church

704 Whitney Ave

New Haven, CT 06511


Admission: $20/10 - Adult/Student

David Bruce: Gumboots 

Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Quintet


Mélanie Clapiès and Bora Kim, violin

Julia Clancy, viola

Samuel DeCaprio, cello

David Perry, clarinet

Yevgeny Yontov, piano

from Communism to Apartheid 

In David Bruce’s words, “There is a paradox in music, and indeed all art, that life-enriching works have been produced, even inspired, by conditions of tragedy, brutality and oppression.” The Piano Quintet by Dmitri Shostakovich was born out of Shostakovich’s struggle with the Communist regime. The authorities of Soviet Russia expected its composers to produce music in the style of Socialist Realism: accessible, tuneful, stylistically traditional, and inspired by folk-music qualities. This was simple uplifting music designed to describe the lives of the working-class, as the regime wanted to describe it. In reality, anyone that did not align oneself with the goals of the regime experienced heavy oppression in all aspects of life.

Shostakovich aimed to describe the true life of the Russian people, not the lie that the authorities wanted to portray. However, as a member of that society himself, he could not produce music of tragedy and suffering, as it did not align with the ideas of Socialist Realism. He had to mask the truth. In the Piano Quintet, one might argue that the real heart of the piece is in the “transitional movements” – Nos. 2 & 4, the Fugue and the Intermezzo. These are dissonant and complex movements in a minor key that describe deep suffering and anguish. The middle movement of the piece is a Scherzo, traditionally a light and fast movement. Here it is a fast and energetic dance in a major key. The Finale is also in a major key, and it is mostly light-hearted, simple, and tuneful. However, given the musical and historical context, the Scherzo becomes a grotesque dance, and the Finale – a frightening image of a suffering man forced to smile.