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BBC NOW - Poulenc, Shostakovich

2 hours, 30 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 04 October 2013

Live from St. David's Hall in Cardiff

Presented by Nicola Heywood Thomas

Thomas Sondergard opens the Cardiff concert season with the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales with Poulenc's playful Gloria and Shostakovich's powerful Eighth Symphoony, inspired by the Soviet Union's epic struggle during the Second World War.

Poulenc: Gloria

8.00: Music Interval

Shostakovich: Symphony No 8 in C minor, Op 65

Poulenc's Gloria is one of the most joyous and unihibited settings of this sacred text, so much so that the Catholic establishment frowned on the work for being too frivolous. Poulenc was born into an ardently catholic family, and returned to his faith in 1936 after a period of neglect, following the death of his friend and fellow composer Pierre Octave Ferroud in a tragic motor accident. His faith permeated many of his works after, including motets, a mass and a setting of the Stabat Mater, alongside his opera Dialogues des Carmelites, but his music retained the simplicity and directness of his secular musical style. Poulenc has been described as "part monk, part guttersnipe", but the composer felt no such contradition. After all, he had seen both Benedictine monks enjoying a game of football, and fifteenth-century Italian frescos by Gozzoli, in which angels poke their tongues out in good-natured fun.

Thomas Sondergard conducted Shostakovich's Eleventh Symphony at the 2013 BBC Proms to great critical acclaim. He follows it at this concert with the the Eighth, written during the Second World War, during the summer of 1943. The Eighth is a symphony of immense drama and intensity, but it's not just a monument to appalling times, it's also a great work of absolute music, in which the notes look beyond the surroundings, a truly heroic work of art.


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