Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 – Work No. 55 in our collection

Dmitri Shostakovich (12.09.1906 – 09.08.1975) was a Russian composer and pianist who is regarded as one of the major composers of the twentieth century. He is remembered particularly for his fifteen symphonies, numerous chamber works, and his concertos.

In addition to Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47, we would particularly recommend that you investigate his first symphony, symphonies 8 &10, the Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 107, Cello Sonata in D minor, Op. 40Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor for piano, trumpet & strings, Op. 35Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 99 and his String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110.

Since its earliest performances, given at the height of Stalin’s ‘Great Terror’ in November 1937 Shostakovich’s fifth symphony has rarely failed to move the audience. Tagged A Soviet Artist’s creative reply to just criticism it is both the most popular and also the most mysterious of twentieth century symphonies. The precise intentions of this symphony being the focus of much debate. Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47 is a more conservative, less colourful work than Shostakovich’s fourth symphony, which the composer suppressed until Kruschev’s thaw. The idiom of this piece is clearly foreshadowed in the Cello Sonata in D minor, Op. 40. The work is less dissonant than some of his earlier works and written in four movements and both Mahler and Stravinsky loom large in the score. The emotional heart of the work is is the somewhat Tchaikovsky like largo which so moved audiences and can be regarded as some of the best music written by Shostakovich up to that point in time.

There are approaching one hundred CDs of this work available. The best of these include those performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Mark Wigglesworth and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with Manfred Honeck. However we believe that Andris Nelsons’ account with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, released in 2016 is the best of all.

View the other works in our collection.