Arts and Culture | Local

Shostakovich, JCC talk to kick off TSO season

George Hanson
George Hanson

The Tucson Symphony Orchestra opens its 85th season on Oct. 4 with music director and conductor George Hanson on the podium. Maestro Hanson, now in his 18th year leading the TSO, is opening the season with

an all-Russian program, “Victorious Shostakovich!” He will give a talk on the program at the Tucson Jewish Community Center on Sept. 29.

“Shostakovich is one of a small handful of composers who could be considered the greatest symphonists of all time, as well as one of the most important composers of the 20th century,” Hanson told the AJP. Hanson, who worked as an assistant to

another important 20th century composer — Leonard Bernstein — made his mark in the music world after winning first place in two world-class conducting competitions at the age of 28. “Bernstein,” says Hanson, “was famous for his interpretations of Shostakovich.” Hanson is clearly keen to carry on his mentor’s mission to bring Shostakovich’s music to American audiences.

The 2013-14 TSO season opens with the Tucson premier of Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony in C major, the “Leningrad.”

“The ‘Leningrad’ depicts the story of the siege of Leningrad (today’s St. Petersburg) by the Germans in World War II,” explains Hanson. Shostako­vich actually wrote part of the symphony while he and his family were trapped in that siege, which lasted 900 days. The “Leningrad” symphony stands as a symbol of resistance to Nazi totalitarianism and militarism. When it was published, says Hanson, “orchestras in North America and Europe vied for the distinction of being the first to perform the work.”

Shostakovich was controversial in his day as he was often at odds with Stalinism. “If there were such a thing as a ‘pro-Semite,’ that’s something that you could call Shostakovich, because he stood up for Russian Jews and Jewish causes,” says Hanson. “With his musical depiction of the siege of Leningrad, Shostakovich was saying, ‘We are all Russians, we are all in this together and we will put aside all the politics and anti-Semitism of the 1930s in order to survive this ordeal.’”

In addition to the “Leningrad,” the “Victorious Shostakovich!” program will include Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, as well as Alexander Glazunov’s Violin Concerto, with Grammy-nominated violinist Jennifer Frautschi making her TSO debut. Hanson points out how well Glazunov complements the program, as Glazunov was Shostakovich’s first teacher: “Glazunov recognized the young Shostakovich as a unique and special talent when Glazunov was the director of the Leningrad conservatory and Shostakovich was a young student there.”

The TSO’s 2013-14 full season of Classics and Pops concerts will feature, among others, artists Itzhak Perlman and Neil Sedaka as well as performances by Movin’ Out star Michael Cavanaugh and the Celtic music and dance ensemble Cherish the Ladies.

Tickets for all TSO performances are available online at or by phone at 882-8585.

Hanson’s free talk on “Victorious Shostakovich!” will be held on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. in the JCC’s Heritage Room.