Russia ain't what it used to be

Philharmonic performance recalls old Soviet regimes and revolutions

| September 06, 2007
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You never can tell what will set people off. According to director Sergei Eisenstein's film The Battleship Potemkin, the Bolshevik revolt of 1905 began when commanders on the Battleship Potemkin tried to force sailors to eat maggot-infested meat.

People in the nearby city of Odessa sided with the sailors and tried to bring food to the dock where the ship was shored, but were met with a bludgeoning by the czarist military.

Lawrence Leighton Smith, music director for the Colorado Springs Philharmonic (CSP), says Eisenstein championed the cinematic montage. Smith, who has some Russian experience as guest conductor of the Moscow Philharmonic in 1986, will conduct an arrangement of Dmitri Shostakovich while the movie plays behind them at the Pikes Peak Center. According to Smith, Shostakovich feared Stalin's regime, which sent many of his friends and family to Siberia in the 1930s. But Shostakovich's symphonies sang praise for the revolution.

Therefore, Smith isn't sure if Shostakovich composed these triumphant trumpets with a sense of irony, or if Shostakovich's music really celebrated Soviet citizens' attempts to overthrow the government be it the regime of 1905 or Stalin's dictatorship.

The Battleship Potemkin has had its own run-ins with censorship; the movie was banned in the United States. Ironically, Eisenstein later came to work in the States and according to the CSP Web site, he found that the studio system in the capitalist west restrained his creativity.

Regardless of Shostakovich's intentions, Smith says the music goes well with the movie, which was made before "talkies." In the subtitles, the actors are always saying "comrade."

After studying the film, Smith says he was flippantly thinking of calling his friends "comrades," but decided against it.

"That's a very special word," he says. "People had very strong feelings for overthrowing the government."


The Battleship Potemkin: A Symphonic Cinema Spectacular

Pikes Peak Center,

190 S. Cascade Ave.

Saturday, Sept. 15, 8 p.m. Pre-concert symposium, 6:30 p.m.Tickets: $22-$37; call 520-SHOW (7469) or visit ticketswest.com.

For more information, call 884-2110 or visit

csphilharmonic.org.

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