Sunday, June 04, 2017

Relive a pivotal moment in musical history

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was one of the major composers of the 20th century, and probably the greatest symphonist of that century. Much of his creative years were spent under the brutal and repressive regime of Joseph Stalin. After the performance of Shostakovich's opera Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk, Pravda, the official government newspaper, published a scathing denunciation of the work under the direct orders of Stalin. Shostakovich had completed his 4th Symphony and its performance was planned, but when he realized that he was in very real danger of arrest, he withdrew it and began work on the 5th Symphony. In it he addressed the issues of criticism that had been directed at him.

Now, take yourself back in history to November 21, 1937 and the premier of the 5th Symphony by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. The composer has been under official censure by Stalin, and this is his next major work. No doubt the auditorium is packed. It is said that during the Largo (slow) movement many people wept openly. Then comes the finale, with its soaring, triumphant climax. The ovation lasted well over 30 minutes. Here is a LINK to a performance of the symphony. If you don't want to listen to the whole thing, run the button over to about the 46 minute mark and listen to the finish. Just imagine, given the historical situation that existed, what the emotions of the audience must have been.

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