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.
- 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
a standard four-movement pattern
- 1st movement (15.5 mins): Moderato
- 2nd movement (5.5 mins): Allegretto (like a scherzo)
3rd movement (13 mins):
- 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.
- 20th century composer