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  • Shostakovich
    • 20th century composer     
      • Born in St. Petersburg and began piano lessons  at the age of 9.    
    • Joined the Petrograd Conservatory in St. Petersburg at the age of 13 to study piano & composition 
    • 1928, his 1st symphony had been performed in America    
    • The voice of Soviet Russia. He expressed the experience of living under the oppression of communism (under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin)    
    • Shostakovich avoided arrest and courageously wrote a new symphony in 1937 – Symphony No. 5.          He wrote this work knowing that not only his reputation but his life depended on its reception
    • The premiere on 21st November 1937 was intense, especially waiting for the verdict of the authorities. 
    •  It is important to note that it was a punishable offence to cry in public at this time. 
    • With this symphony, Shostakovich had returned to being an approved artist – “as the most talented Soviet composer of his cursed generation…his achievement is unrivalled.”
    • His last years were blighted by ill health but he still composed and by his death in 1975, he had completed 15 symphonies amongst many other works.
    • Communism
      • Russia came into the 20th century as an oppressed country, ruled by the Czars and the country had never undergone the liberal revolutions that took place in Europe. 
      • In 1917, through acts of “terrorism” and rebellion, a small group of revolutionaries overthrew the Czars and Russia went into a stage of anarchy and turmoil – the Bolshevik Party of Lenin emerged.
      • Stalin was a dictator and leader of Russia for 20 years (1922-1952)    
      • The years 1937-1938 in Soviet history in particular are known as ‘the great terror’    
      • Communism was the goal. This is essentially an ideology whereby all property is owned by the community and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs.     
      • After the death of Stalin in 1953, Russia entered a period now known as ‘the thaw’    
    • Symphony No.5
      • Written and premiered in 1937 by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra at the height of the Stalinist purges when millions of Soviet citizens were forcibly relocated, exiled and/or killed.
      • Conducted by Mravinsky    
      • Follows a standard four-movement pattern
        • 1st movement (15.5 mins): Moderato
        • 2nd movement (5.5 mins): Allegretto (like a scherzo)
        • 3rd movement (13 mins): Largo
          • In the Classical era, the slow movement is usually second but in the Romantic era, it became more common to put the slow movement third.
        • 4th movement (11 mins): Allegro non troppo
      • Shostakovich had learnt from his reprimand and produced a symphony that was not too complex in either technical or emotional content    
      • The communist party considered that the music represented the journey of an intellectual from individualism to solidarity with the people - a journey that underlined the communist idea.


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