Interview with Andris Nelsons : Stalin’s influence on Shostakovich

The marvelous German violinist Christian Tetzlaff joins Andris Nelsons and the BSO for Beethoven’s peerless Violin Concerto, which, through its lyricism, intensely musical virtuosity, and expansive scope elevated the genre of the violin concerto to ambitious new heights. Shostakovich-a Beethoven devotee-purportedly wrote his Symphony No. 10 as a response to Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953. Considered one of his finest, most characteristic orchestral works, the musically and emotionally rich Tenth seems partly to have been an exorcism of his conflicted personal feelings toward the Soviet dictator.

For self-preservation and to support his family, Dmitri Shostakovich was forced for much of his career to subjugate his social/political ideology to the dictates of Stalin. But while he was churning out a body of public music that Soviet authorities would consider appropriate to a Stalinist agenda, he was also composing a very different, intensely personal style of music for himself. When Stalin died in 1953, Shostakovich and other Soviet artists were finally allowed the freedom to make their true creative expression public. Just four months later, Shostakovich began writing his powerful, enigmatic Symphony No. 10, celebrated as one of the first major works of art created in post-Stalinist USSR, becoming a symbol in the country of cultural awakening following the demise of Stalins relentless oppression.

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