Feature: The Brilliant 20th Century Back to Features page
Shostakovich is well known for his cold, bitter and often sarcastic music.
Living as an aritist under Stalin, he did of course have a lot to be bitter about.
Commissioned the year after Stalin's death, this is a work of unbridled optimism and good humour. It bears a much a greater resemblance to Elmer Bernstein's Magnificent Seven than it does to many of Shostakovich's earlier works.
It was commissioned for a concert celebrating the 1917 revolution, although it's significance as a political statement should not be overestimated. Shostakovich was far more interested in writing music than he was in being a good communist.
Piano Concerto in G
Ravel's best known foray into the world of Jazz was written in 1931. He'd just been on a tour of the US where he met George Gershwin.
Gershwin's revolutionary Rhapsody in Blue had been written just a few years, and was one of the first examples of Jazz piano in an orchestral setting.
Unlike much of Ravel's music, which can seem extremely intense and densely textured, the Piano Concerto in G is a joy to listen to.
If you liked this, you might like to explore some other music by Ravel, but you would probably also enjoy the music of Gershwin and Bernstein.
Symphony No. 5
This piece is not short on drama, power or tension, but it is quite unashamedly optimistic.