Music Born Of Fear Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5


INVESTIGATING specific compositional techniques Shostakovich uses can help us better understand his musical language.

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Kaldunia (not verified)
February 2, 2011
Yes, of course, the tempo for the coda makes a difference. The slower version (I have Neemi Jarvi recording) states the whole meaning of the symphony. What MTT calls the "dead end" motif, I think of as Shostakovich's protests (Wait! Wait! What's happening here is all wrong!!!) sometimes under his breath, but right in your face in the coda. If this passage is played fast, the protest--the irony--gets lost in the celebratory finale. The "celebration" lets the symphony end on an up beat of hope for the future--surely God must end this some time. But if there is mere celebration here, it is too pat and the 3rd movement pathos--suffering, despair at the outrages against the Russian people is cheapened, lost.
April 22, 2010
It's a relief to finally find some accessible professional opinion on this coda. I first fell in love with this piece listening to Maxim Shostakovich's recording with the USSR Symphony, and he takes the ending at about the same pace as MTT, and to me it is the only way the piece makes any sense. I'd like to think that Maxim may have had some inside information on how the ending of the work was supposed to be played. To me, the fast ending utterly misses the point of the entire symphony. In Maxim's interpretation, the brass leading up to the coda and the trumpet's final lines are brought to the utmost level of tension, and it fills the listener with the fullest aggregate emotions built from the opening bar of the first movement. Every time I hear a conductor suddenly galloping away like a horse after the intense buildup before the coda I'm filled with disappointment.
December 14, 2009
Ultimate interpretation of the last movement based only on the tempo of the final march has always seemed to me misdirected. Listen rather to the march beginning about 8 min into the final movement. Stanislaw Skrowaczewski's performance with the SFSO in the early 80s was an ear-opener for me, as is any slavic conductor's [e.g., Mravinsky] interpretation: this is a funeral march [cf Berlioz' march to the scaffold] leading to the necessity of completing the work with a 'triumph.'
December 3, 2009
Bernstein's New York recording is MUCH faster. My understanding is that Shostakovich liked it that way, but he might have been dazzled by the celebrity of Bernstein. MTT's finale is odd to me in that the brass aren't allowed to play! It sounds like a subdued chorale.
November 22, 2009
I feel that Shostakovich's indicated tempo of quarternote = 188 was not an editor's mistake. Horenstein's interpretation at quarternote = 176 felt much more celebratory than the MTT's at quarternote = 96. Given Shostakovich's apprehension on how the symphony would be received, this would be desirable. In fact, I felt as though the subtle anti-Stalinist suggestions in the music were amplified to a point where it seemed to be mocking the listener. Given today's retrospective view of the masterpiece, it's certainly appropriate to perform it that way, to appreciate the historic influences and the nuances that Shostakovich incorporated, but I feel as though for Stalin, Shostakovich would have wanted this coda at quarternote = 188.
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