When Dmitry Shostakovich is an easily accessible composer, it is not because he has a difficult and unconventional tone of voice; It is because his music is so emotionally charged that one is mentally exhausted after hearing it.
There is a reason for this emotionality. Shostakovich (1906-75) created his music during an almost unbearable period for Russian artists, Stalin's reign of terror. Artists were constantly in danger of being characterized as "formalists", which could mean artistic and personal ruin or worse.
Shostakovich composed his first symphony in the years 1923-25 as an examination piece at the Leningrad Conservatory. It is a startling work with tremendous energy and brilliance. 1936 became a turning point for the composer when Stalin condemned his opera Lady Macbeth from Mtsensk and he received the dreaded label "formalist" and was characterized as an enemy of the people. In response to this, in 1937 he composed his Fifth Symphony, which was called by a journalist “the creative answer of a Soviet artist. . .
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