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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: Shostakovich

How streaming service Idagio has changed my listening habits

Andrew Hitz

I recently signed up for a classical-only streaming service called Idagio. In the three weeks since I signed up I have listened to more classical music than any stretch since high school and it has been amazing.

Perhaps my favorite thing about it is the discovery. They have a listing of “Featured New Releases” that is prominently displayed in both the app and desktop versions. I have listened to no less than 10 recordings that have been released within the last month.

Discovery on Spotify is a disaster. I would find myself clicking on thumbnails of album covers to blow them up in order to squint and see what soloists were on a recording or who the conductor was. Not only does Idagio make it easy to discover brand new recordings, the entire thing is searchable by soloist, ensemble, conductor, composer, etc. This fact shouldn’t be impressive but compared to the current offerings of Spotify and Apple Music this is quite a revelation in how easy it is to use.


I’m going to start a new series of blog posts here sharing what I’m listening to. I always appreciate it when other musicians share what they are digging as it gives me lots of ideas of what to listen to myself.

#NowPlaying: Shostakovich: String Quartet Nos. 5, 7 & Piano Quintet - Elisabeth Leonskaja, Artemis Quartet

There is just something about Shostakovich string quartets that get me all worked up. We did a phenomenal arrangement of his String Quartet No. 8 arranged by JD Shaw when I was in Boston Brass. It was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever performed.

This recording is really something. It just came out earlier this month. For a group that has had 100% turnover within the last few years they sure sound like they have been playing together for a very long time.

I love string players who can play with the weight and aggression of brass players (when called for!) and I love brass players who can play with the lightness and phrasing of string players. Artemis Quartet certainly attacks this String Quartet No. 5.

Good stuff!

Mstislav Rostropovich: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

Here is a hauntingly beautiful performance of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 2 by cello legend Mstislav Rostropovich.  This performance took place on September 25th, 1967 in the Large Hall of the Moscow State Conservatory.  He is accompanied by The State Academic Symphony Orchestra of the USSR conducted by Svetlanov.

He sure could play phrases that seemed to last days.  This is a wonderful performance of one of my favorite concertos of all time.


Chicago Symphony with Leonard Bernstein/Shostakovich 7: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

This is my absolute favorite orchestral recording of all time.  Leonard Bernstein was known as a virtuosic interpreter of a number of composers and Shostakovich was one of them.  This recording of Shostakovich 7 is as fine an example of the great brass tradition of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as exists. There is something about this piece, this orchestra, this conductor. It's just perfect.

This YouTube clip actually has the score of the symphony scrolling by in real time with the music.  If you've never heard this before, I would encourage you to get a pair of headphones, ignore the score, close your eyes, and prepare to be taken on a journey.

I'm pretty sure Bernstein is smiling somewhere every time someone hears this recording for the first time and does a fist pump.


Monday YouTube Fix: Leonard Bernstein/New York Philharmonic

Andrew Hitz

Clips like this one are why the internet was invented.  YouTube is just a mind-blowing musical resource.  It really is amazing how many clips like this one are out there. I attended my first concert of the season at Tanglewood yesterday.  Every time I am there I am reminded of Leonard Bernstein.  I've never seen a conductor command an audience and an ensemble as well as he did.  He was a truly gifted musician and communicator.

This is the final movement of Shostakovich 5 recording live by the New York Philharmonic in 1979.  What an incredible performance.  The intensity on Bernstein's face at the end of this clip is both amazing and genuine.  Thank goodness we have performances from the past like this one on video.  There's so much to learn from them.