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Dimitri Shostakovich / Putting It Together

Rick Rogers Published: November 21, 2012

On this day in classical music: Dimitri Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 5” was given its premiere by the Leningrad Philharmonic in 1937. In 1936, the composer fell out of favor with Stalin and his policies. The newspaper Pravda attacked the composer, referring to his music as “muddle instead of music.” Shostakovich had recently completed his Fourth Symphony, rehearsals of which were under way. The composer eventually withdrew the symphony from the public. Maintaining a low profile during 1936 and 1937, Shostakovich composed film music that Stalin was unlikely to challenge. When Shostakovich premiered his Fifth Symphony, he claimed it was “an artist’s creative response to just criticism.” The work was a success and remains today the most popular of the composer’s 15 symphonies. Listen to Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic perform the finale of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony.

Dimitri Shostakovich
Dimitri Shostakovich

On this day in the musical theatre: A revival of Stephen Sondheim’s musical revue “Putting It Together” opened on Broadway in 1999. The production featured Carol Burnett, John McCook, John Barrowman, Susan Egan and Bronson Pinchot. The revue offered a sampling of music from Sondheim’s illustrious career, including musical numbers from “The Frogs,” “Sunday in the Park With George,” “Merrily We Roll Along,” “Do I Hear a Waltz?” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Into the Woods,” “A Little Night Music,” “Company,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Dick Tracy,” “Follies,” “Assassins,” “Anyone Can Whistle” and “Marry Me a Little.” The production ran for 101 performances. Listen to Burnett perform “The Ladies Who Lunch.”

Putting It Together - Broadway Revival Cast DVD
Putting It Together - Broadway Revival Cast DVD

Musical musings: “Putting It Together,” a reworking of the Sondheim evening first seen at the Manhattan Theater Club in 1993, asks her (Burnett) to be sharp and brittle. Ms. Burnett can caricature brittleness deliciously, but actually being brittle is a chore for her. While there are moments in the production when the Burnett and Sondheim sensibilities coalesce in shiver-making flashes, they are sadly infrequent. The whole tone of the show, which strings together Sondheim songs to shape a loose story of five urbanites at a cocktail party, is out of sync with its own material. “Putting It Together” is perversely determined to make something lite of the dark bard of the American musical. Indeed, the composer’s full presence is oddly absent throughout this evening devoted to his work. – Ben Brantley in The New York Times


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