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Shostakovich’s Prologue to ‘Orango’ & Symphony No. 4

Dmitry Shostakovich's Prologue to 'Orango' and Symphony No. 4.

Commissioned to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the October Revolution in 1932, Orango tells the fantastical story of a human-ape hybrid, who, through a combination of sleazy journalism, stock-exchange swindles and blackmail, rises to become a ruthless newspaper baron.

Because of its explosive political and musical content, Shostakovich left Orango unfinished. The score remained forgotten until 2004, when a 13 page piano score was found in Moscow.

At the request of the composer’s widow, Gerald McBurney orchestrated the Prologue to Shostakovich’s lost opera,. Its World Premiere took place at Walt Disney Hall on December 2nd, 2011, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

On a Mahlerian scale and ranging from the darkest tragedy to dreamlike sequences of music-hall and silent-film music, Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony is one of his most dramatic and revolutionary symphonic works. Forced by austere Soviet authorities to withdraw the radical symphony shortly before its premiere, the work was first heard in public over twenty five years later, when the composer is reported to have said, “I think in many ways the Fourth is greater than my later symphonic efforts”.

The booklet contains essays by orchestrator Gerald McBurney, who tells the story of Orango’s rediscovery, and by renowned iconoclast director, Peter Sellars, who staged the work at its long-awaited Los Angeles premiere.


. . . [it proved] fitting that Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic were chosen to present “Orango” to the world. The precision, the theatricality and the deep feeling for the music displayed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall suggested a real understanding of [the score] . . . In Salonen’s hands, these 40 minutes felt not like an afterthought or fragment, but like the opening salvo of something significant . . . a short, gripping curtain-raiser . . . The tenors Michael Fabiano and Timur Bekbosunov were outstanding among a strong ensemble cast, and Eugene Brancoveanu was amusing in the truncated title role . . . [a] thrilling performance . . .

James C. Taylor

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