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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5

Stalin and the Soviet regime hailed Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 as a heroic celebration of the USSR.  In reality, it damned the cruel communist regime that crushed the human soul and murdered millions. 

He said: “The rejoicing is forced, created under threat. It’s as if someone were beating you with a stick, saying ‘Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing’, and you rise up, shaky, and go marching off, muttering, ‘Our business is rejoicing.’ Stalin liked it because he thought Shostakovich was glorifying him, not realizing the composer’s true intent! (How Shostakovich Survived to Protest Stalin’s Anti-Semitism)

If you're like me and you don't automatically "get" classical music, here is a read-ahead to orient you to the historical context and what each of the four movements are about: Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 5

There is also a two-minute YouTube video that captures the time quite nicely:  Shostakovich's 5th Symphony

I have enjoyed a live performance of this symphony, and it is indeed emotion and moving. I hope you enjoy and appreciate it.


  1. Isn't that the implied command of the post-modern age? Enjoy! Pure SuperEgo.

  2. Replies
    1. I was just telling AOW that FreeThinke and I had a conversation about Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5. That man was a treasure trove of information about classical music.

      And yes, he also like pre-1960 popular music.

    2. What if a message is so secret that no one could hear it?

      At the end of the day, we're listening to music Stalin approved of, when other composers and musicians were led off to gulags.

      Doesn't that make Shostakovich the Trifim Lysenko of music?

    3. High culture is full of such esoteric messages. They are generally only intended for those with "long ears" (ala histories of Tacitus).

    4. Ever wonder why there may have been Four canonical gospels and not Five? Six?

    5. You beat me to the punch. I was going to bring up Leo Strauss :) Only someone who's seen the business end of a Medici torture chamber can write satire like Macchiavelli's The Prince and get away with it.

      But, I don't know if music can "code" a message the way the written word, or even better, the sarcastic written word can.

      Does Shostakovich's 5th Symphony really thumb a nose at Stalin on its own without someone coming along afterwards and interpreting it that way?

    6. Ever read Machiavelli's "Mandragola"? See the opera's of Wagner's Ring Cycle. Each of Wagner's opera's builds on the theme, and it is best to appreciate Wagner's growth by watching his opera's "chronologically".

      Much of the same can be said for Mozart's operas.

    7. One of Wagner's greatest gifts to music was the Leitmotif. Simply put, it's a musical signature designed to represent a character or theme in an opera, and he uses them throughout his operas. Modern film composers have since adopted the technique, and you'll find countless examples across many Hollywood scores.

      When I say Darth Vader, what leitmotifs do you hear in your head? Peter (Peter and the Wolf)?

    8. According to contemporary accounts, the Leningrad audience was filled with 'ordinary people' as well as apparatchiks. The 'Ordinary people' 'got it,' and the officials were immediately suspicious.

    9. Darth Vader? Mary Poppins, of course. ;)

      Still, there's a "only Zen on the mountaintop is the Zen you take up there" element I'm not seeing (hearing). Having not grown up under Stalin, I can't tell if music is taking the piss out of him, as the British say.

  3. The musical difference between being raised by a traditional father (FreeThinke/ Guy Lombardo) and a post-modern father (Stalin/ Shostakovich).

  4. SF,
    What wonderful musical-interlude selection, my friend!

    Thank you for taking up the slack here at the blog while Warren and I are on overload with taking care of several personal matters and multiple appointments.

    Warren and I hope to return soon. Till then, post away! "Nuestra casa es tu casa."