Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5

Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5


“I think it is clear to everyone what happens in the Fifth. The rejoicing is forced, created under threat. It’s as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying, ‘Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing …’”

—words allegedly said by Shostakovich many years after the symphony was written

Fourth Movement Coda


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Michael Tilson Thomas

In 1937 Russia, at the height of Stalin’s purges, the Communist Party strongly denounced Dmitri Shostakovich’s most recent works. Fearing for his life, the young composer wrote a symphony ending with a rousing march. But to many, the triumph rang hollow. Even today, people wonder just what Shostakovich was trying to say. Was the symphony meant to celebrate Stalin’s regime? Or did it contain hidden messages protesting the very system it seemed to support?

Inspect the controversial evidence to find out: