Message of the final movement of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony

Posted on: March 15, 2017

“This winter audiences have been able to decide for themselves what Dmitri Shostakovich had in mind in his Fifth Symphony, thanks to the U.S. tour of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic under the baton of Yuri Temirkanov,” writes Stuart Isacoff in Friday’s (3/10) Wall Street Journal (subscription required). “Mr. Temirkanov rejects the official view of the work as a celebration of Soviet greatness in favor of a far bleaker message. In 1937, when the piece was written, the composer, under assault by Stalin … feared meeting the fate of others who had been exiled or killed. The Fifth Symphony was his sacrificial offering to the gods of political correctness. Or so the Communist authorities believed…. The new symphony featured a bombastic coda… For all appearances, this was a panegyric to the glory of the state….  Is that final moment jubilant … or is it really a declaration of protest and scorn? At his orchestra’s recent Carnegie Hall appearance, Mr. Temirkanov brought out the darkest tones in Shostakovich’s score. The ending, a slow, inexorable trudge, had tympanis blaring like cannon fire, and one could imagine they were aimed at us…. The performance was not just technically flawless but also emotionally gripping and powerful.”

Posted March 15, 2017