September 01, 2008

Tsar David

For the Soviet Union, 1937 was not merely the year of the Great Terror and the centennial of Pushkin’s death. It was also a significant year for Soviet music, a year of unprecedented achievements for two of its sons. Dmitry Shostakovich, who had fallen into disfavor for his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District and for his ballet The Bright Stream, received public acclaim for his Fifth Symphony, one of his best works. Leaders praised it as “the artist’s constructive reply to just criticism,” yet arguments rage to this day about the work’s multiplicative meanings. The poet Boris Pasternak, according to legend, said about the Fifth Symphony and its author: “He went and said everything, and no one did anything to him for it.”

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