Karen Gomyo has been fascinated by the Shostakovich Violin Concerto since she first heard it, as a teenager. She’ll be joining the San Francisco Symphony to perform the work in a concert program called ‘Banned and Boycotted’ that also includes Bartok’s Miraculous Mandarin this Thursday through Saturday, guest conducted by Jakub Hrůša.

You can find out more about the concerts at the San Francisco Symphony website.

“I think I first heard this piece when I was about 14 years old, and it was right around the time when I also picked up a book about Shostakovich, and started reading it, at the same time also listening to his 11th symphony, which spoke so profoundly to me… I’ve always thought the violin concerto had a – like a secret narrative to it, a storyline.” It was shelved for many years during the Soviet Era, when the composer was under great pressure to write music that would be well received by the powers that be. “Think about what Shostakovich went through,” Gomyo says, “And the reality of his life and everything he put into his music. Particularly this piece, I think, because it wasn’t published until after Stalin’s death, and so one can maybe say that he put something in the music that he thought the regime would not approve of.” The piece is by turns contemplative and fiery: “You’ve got the first movement, which is this very emotionally suppressed kind of atmosphere, also maybe anticipating something really terrible to happen, and then you’ve got this explosive second movement, this demonic dance, almost like a war scene. Then there’s a meditative, but really mournful movement, which then descends into this quiet and ultimately really powerful cadenza, long cadenza, which then erupts into the fourth movement, which is again, this demonic, sort of victorious kind of a movement.”