Musicologist Joseph Horowitz is D.C.’s self-appointed booster for underappreciated modern music. His PostClassical Ensemble has organized a number of mini-festivals of 20th century composers, ranging from the risky and weird (Charles Ives) to the relatively safe (Stravinsky and Gershwin). But even familiar subjects get novel treatment by Horowitz in the form of informative musical edutainment and multimedia mash-ups that supplement film with live performance. The ensemble’s target this fall, Dmitri Shostakovich, falls somewhere between the two extremes: As a composer, he was in many ways an unreconstructed Russian romantic, who flirted with but ultimately rejected Western avant-garde pretenses, yet he also pushed the bounds of tonality. However he’s best remembered for his complicated politics and love-hate relationship with the Soviet regime. His deviations from Socialist Realism earned him official denunciations in Pravda and NKVD investigations for alleged Trotskyist leanings—though he was ultimately “rehabilitated,” and even got a peninsula in Soviet Antarctica named after him.
The festival kicks off Oct. 5 with a lecture and recital by violinist Oleg Rylatko at Georgetown, and continues with a film series at the National Gallery that includes King Lear (accompanied by the Georgetown University Chamber Singers, Oct. 20), Hamlet (with piano and soprano accompaniment, Oct. 21), Five Days, Five Nights (Oct. 28), Testimony (starring Ben Kingsley as Shostakovich, Nov. 3), and Song of the Rivers (Nov. 4). It concludes with a pair of concerts by the PostClassical Ensemble at Dumbarton Church (Nov. 3) and the National Gallery (Nov. 4). With the exception of the Dumbarton concert, it’s all free. Free to $33.