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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Weekend at the symphony gives ‘Power to the People!’

James Lowe conducts the Spokane Symphony, which performed their Masterworks 8: “Power to the People!” on Saturday and Sunday at the Fox.  (Courtesy)
From staff reports

In the eighth rendition of the Spokane Symphony’s recent Masterworks series, “Power to the People!” will take two days to display music of important political leaders and famed composers.

Conducted by music director James Lowe, there will be four classics by three composers explored by the orchestra: “Overture to The Boatswain’s Mate” by Ethel Smyth, “Serenade (after Plato’s “Symposium”)” and “Slava! A Political Overture” by Leonard Bernstein, and finally “Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op.47” by Dmitri Shostakovich.

“Overture to The Boatswain’s Mate” was composed by Ethel Smyth (a renowned composer and suffragette) for her early 20th-century opera “The Boatswain’s Mate.” The opera was based off a story by the same name and features a primary heroine character who outsmarts her attempted retired-dock-hand suitor. Smyth was an avid member of the Women’s Social and Political Union and was unafraid to be open about her sexuality throughout her life and career.

Leonard Bernstein was a once-in-a-lifetime composer with a large array of awards and renowned pieces across various genres, including the music for the famed “West Side Story.” The first American conductor to receive international acclaim and music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Bernstein was also an avid activist supporting the Civil Right Movement, protesting the Vietnam War, etc. Bernstein is also the center of Bradley Cooper’s recent Oscar-nominated biograph film, “Maestro.”

The emotional final piece being performed, “Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op.47,” is by Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Shostakovich and his many works were internationally acclaimed and celebrated in Soviet-era Russia, but he had multiple complications with his own government, who walked a fine line of awarding him or intervening under the belief Shostakovich was writing formalist music. Specifically, a couple examples of this far-reaching oversight include a 1934 opera being condemned by the Soviet government and his work being denounced in 1948.

Joining the Spokane Symphony at their Fox Theater home is Glenn Dicterow, who served as concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for over three decades and mentored the Symphony’s own concertmaster, Mateusz Wolski.