Shostakovich on Trial: from Lady Macbeth to the Fifth Symphony | Summary and Q&A

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January 21, 2022
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Gresham College
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Shostakovich on Trial: from Lady Macbeth to the Fifth Symphony

TL;DR

Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony faced criticism from Stalin, leading him to reform his style and write the Fifth Symphony, possibly as a love letter to his girlfriend Elena Konstantinovskaya. This symphony became a success, with audiences interpreting it both as a triumph and a cry for help.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Why did Stalin criticize Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony?

Stalin disliked the Fourth Symphony and forced Shostakovich to withdraw it because it did not meet the standards of socialist realism and contained elements that were provocative and dissonant.

Q: How did Shostakovich respond to the criticism of his Fourth Symphony?

Shostakovich reformed his style and wrote the Fifth Symphony as a response to the criticism. He incorporated elements of traditional music, such as folk songs, and aimed to create a more accessible and palatable piece of music.

Q: What was the reception of the Fifth Symphony?

The Fifth Symphony was met with great success by audiences, who interpreted it as both a triumph and a cry for help. It became a way for people to express support for Shostakovich publicly, as standing ovations were common during performances.

Q: Was there a personal dimension to the Fifth Symphony?

Yes, there are indications that the Fifth Symphony may have a personal dimension. Shostakovich's love for Elena Konstantinovskaya and his close friendships with individuals like Ivan Sollertinsky influenced the composition of the symphony, possibly as a tribute or love letter to these individuals.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony faced criticism from Stalin, forcing him to withdraw it and reform his style to write the Fifth Symphony.

  • The Fifth Symphony was received with great success, with audiences interpreting it as a triumph or a cry for help.

  • The symphony may have a personal dimension, with references to Shostakovich's love for Elena Konstantinovskaya and his close friendships.

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