History Personal

On Shozza and Westwood

Attended Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony at the recently-refurbished Royal Festival Hall last night: the first of three Shozza symphonies in less than three months.

This was the music of my student angst: the soundtrack of my miserable loneliness. Where other kids of my age were getting angry to spitting punk solos and new wave neuroticism, I was wallowing in a piece of music written in a starving city under siege of the might of the German war machine. There’s real pain for you, not: “Oh I’m so hard done by. I’ve got pimples and bad breath and all the girls hate me and my B.O.; and, yeah, the government are fascist pigs, right!”

The Leningrad Symphony ranks among those pieces of music written under tangible hardships, like Beethoven’s Ninth and that stuff written by Mahler when his kids dropped dead, or (dare I say it) Sting’s I’ll be Watching You: a song about the agony of separation, guilt and adultery.

Do I remember somewhere a piece of research saying that listening to sad music makes you happier? If so, I think it probably worked for me all those years ago, and it still does today.

Yes, I was tearing up last night. Was it long-forgotten memories of a tatty student bedsit in the middle of a damp winter? Or was it the more recently-researched stories of the inhumanity of Hitler’s attack on Russia, and Stalin’s hateful crimes against his own country and its people, including Shozza himself.

I can say one thing, however, I think I now know why people start coughing at concerts. All that snivelling last night sent tears through my Eustachian tubes and down my throat, causing the desperate urge to hack one out (which I resisted manfully).

Next up is Shozza’s 4th: my favourite Shostakovich symphony and perhaps his greatest.

Seen at the entrance to the RFH: Vivienne Westwood (iconic fashion designer).