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Mahidol Raises Shostakovich from the Dead

On Saturday, the Thailand Philharmonic gave a visceral reading of the Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47, by Dmitry Shostakovich under the baton of Principal Guest Conductor Claude Villaret. One of the regrets of expatriate life in Southeast Asia is being far away from the art and culture of Vienna, Berlin, Prague or New York. This concert was that rare exception meeting the standard of some of the world’s preeminent orchestras and transporting the listeners to the pantheon of music. No wonder the London Symphony Orchestra and the Berliner Philharmoniker are coming to Mahidol this year.

The Saturday programme marked the third time the TPO delivered the Symphony No. 5, and the third was by far their most accomplished performance. Maestro Villaret brought out a stirring and well-balanced playing from the musicians. I felt the anguish of the deeply mournful Largo, which, during the premiere in 1937 by the Leningrad Philharmonic with Yevgeny Mravinsky, moved the audience to tears. Most importantly, Maestro Villaret shrouded the closing section of the rousing final movement in a cloud of ambiguity, investing it with both tragedy and heroism. The TPO deservedly garnered a long thunderous ovation. I dare say Shostakovich himself would have approved. The Shostakovich 4th, the 8th, the 10th, or especially the 14th Symphony — the composer’s magnum opus — would make an excellent choice for a future concert.

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