Political and artistic pressures coincided many times inthe course of Shostakovich’s career, but never more 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.
The crisis he faced was far more than a question of musical style, it was quite literally a matter of life or death. By 1936 the mechanism of Stalin’s Great Terror was lurching into motion, with show trials, denunciations and disappearances. Few Russians remained untouched, particularly in the composer’s own city of Leningrad. Shostakovich himself lost relatives, friends and colleagues. A particularly serious blow was the arrest and execution in June 1937 of his highly-placed protector Marshal Tukhachevsky; association with such an ’enemy of the people’ put Shostakovich in a highly dangerous position.
Total time: 00:46:27
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Johnathan Stokes – Classic Sound LTd
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|Release Date||March 3, 2015|
Rostropovich captures the stark ambivalence of the music – its gut-wrenching menace on the one hand, and stark attractiveness on the other. The playing is top-notch, and quite terrifying at all the right moments.
Classic FM Magazine
His strength is in his ability to inspire players. There’s nothing routine about this performance: Rostropovich generates a fierce intensity … The LSO’s response is consitantly impressive
BBC Music Magazine
This is the sort of thing at which Rostropovich excels; the frozen wastes, the seas of desolation that cover this carefully proportioned symphony have never been more atmospherically charted.
In this towering performance by the LSO under the composer’s friend and colleague Mstislav Rostropovich … Shostakovich comes across as a thoroughgoing modernist, agonised about the issues of the day, but pouring his angst into a huge, multifaceted work which flows with the heat of volcanic lava. One of the last remaining links with this titanic composer, the great cellist-conductor can lay rightful claim to being his outstanding living interpreter.
BBC Radio 3 CD Review
Rostropovich breathes this music as if it were oxygen … he brings it chillingly to life.
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