“The story behind Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 will be told this weekend in ‘Shostakovich 5: Notes for Stalin,’ presented by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and music director Marin Alsop,” writes Tim Smith in Wednesday’s (11/12) Baltimore Sun. “This is the latest ‘Symphonic Play’ created by Didi Balle, the BSO’s first playwright in residence. In recent years, the orchestra has commissioned and premiered Balle’s ‘CSI: Mozart,’ ‘CSI: Beethoven,’ ‘A Composer Fit for a King: Wagner & Ludwig II,’ and ‘Analyze This: Mahler & Freud.’ … The Philadelphia Orchestra first approached [Balle] about writing a Shostakovich play, which that ensemble premiered in 2013. ‘When they told me that Shostakovich allegedly wrote the Fifth Symphony with a packed suitcase under his bed, I told them, “Tell me more. I’m on board,” ’ Balle says. Balle dug into the history of the composer and his precarious situation in mid-1930s Soviet Union, where he went from a darling of the state to a pariah…. ‘He couldn’t trust anyone,’ Balle says. ‘A character in the play is Isaak Glikman, who became Shostakovich’s personal secretary and a close friend…. I have Glikman say to him: “Find a way to say what you need to say beneath the surface.” ’ The result was his Symphony No. 5.”

Posted November 13, 2014