Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was a Soviet Russian composer and pianist and a prominent figure of 20th century music. His output is vast (15 symphonies and 15 string quartets to name a few) and in general his music can be difficult for beginners to get into, however, the Jazz Suites are a great introduction to the lighter side of Shostakovich (though admittedly not his best work). Describing these suites as Jazz Suites, possibly creates false expectations. This is not jazz as you may know it. Rather, as the movement names suggest, you will be confronted with dances, marches and waltzes, peppered with charm, whimsy and melodies that will follow you for days.
Shostakovich composed two Jazz Suites. There appears to be a little controversy surrounding Jazz Suite No.2. This may intrigue some and possibly cause some purists to deride my inaccuracies. To them, I say, "we are here for the music....and this is great music". The tracks are as follows:
Jazz Suite No.1
Jazz Suite No.2
2. Lyric Waltz
3. Dance 1
4. Waltz 1
5. Little Polka
6. Waltz 2
7. Dance 2
My favourite recording of the Jazz Suites is played by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Amsterdam based) conducted by Riccardo Chailly (whom I featured in my first post, not too long ago). These are fun works. The enthusiasm of the musicians is palpable and contagious. The first Jazz Suite is filled with excellently executed violin solos, unusual instruments and orchestration which should enchant even fickle listeners. The second Jazz Suite uses traditional orchestration, but the melodies are just as inventive and catchy. These suites are sheer pleasure from beginning to end.
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Links to the recording (track 1-3 & 8-15):Amazon
Below is a very grainy youTube performance, but it's better than nothing, no?