Continuing our daily coverage of what's on at The Proms 2018, Susan Omand has a quick look at the programme for Prom 69: Boston Symphony Orchestra Bernstein and Shostakovich ...
Prom 69 is not to be confused with Sham 69 or any other kind (stop sniggering at the back there).
One of the lesser known Bernstein works starts the Prom. His Serenade is based on the seven speeches from Plato's Symposium which was written around 380 BC - so quite a while ago - and, although it is sometimes called a violin concerto because of the instrument's prominence, there is also a significant amount of percussion, with the usual timpani and five more percussionists playing side drum, tenor drum, bass drum, triangle, suspended cymbal, xylophone, glockenspiel, chimes, Chinese blocks and tambourine so they're worth listening out for.
After the interval, a performance of a Shostakovich symphony that waited 25 years from completion until it was actually premiered in concert. Completed in 1936 his Symphony no 4 fell foul of the Stalinist regime in Russia, as did the composer himself. Shostakovich's previous 2 symphonies had toed the party line, filled with patriotic chorales but, toward the end of 1935 he apparently told an interviewer, "I am not afraid of difficulties. It is perhaps easier, and certainly safer, to follow a beaten path, but it is also dull, uninteresting and futile" then promptly scrapped all the patriotic sketches he'd put together for Symphony 4 and started again on his own terms.
The result was, indeed, worth the wait. Here's an interesting wee explanation of how one of the themes is carried through the different instruments.