Gianandrea Noseda and the London Symphony Orchestra continue their Shostakovich cycle with a pairing of the iconic Fifth Symphony alongside the composer's First.
Few pieces of classical music have been the subject of so much debate and discussion as the Fifth Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich. Following the 'justified criticism' of his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk the Fifth marked a a turning point in his career, after which he balanced an even more precarious position as an artist under Stalin’s brutal regime.
Completed by the composer at just 18 years old, Shostakovich’s First Symphony propelled him into the international spotlight. Breathtakingly unpredictable, the piece charts a course through soundscapes of blazing passion, melancholy introspection, and caustic humor.
Political and artistic pressures coincided many times in the course of Shostakovich’s career, but never more intensely than in the year 1937 when the Fifth Symphony was composed. Early in 1936 his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and the ballet The Limpid Stream had been officially condemned, and in consequence, he felt obliged to withdraw his Fourth Symphony before its scheduled premiere.
These works, which are full of a wayward, dissonant genius, made no concession to the official doctrine of Socialist Realism, and the bleak endings of both Opera and Symphony directly contradicted the optimism then expected from Soviet artists.