Sunday, September 20, 2015

Petrenko Solves the Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 Puzzle

Shostakovich's masterpiece, Symphony No. 4, was suppressed as being 'formalist.' It would not be heard in the Soviet Union for nearly 30 years. The Soviet authorities forced Dimitri to deliver something more simple and 'understandable.' He delivered. His 5th is perhaps his most popular symphony and it was instantly recognized as a great work. During its premiere, the audience was touched to the point of tears by the third movement--an elegy to the populace suffering under Stalin's tyranny. People 'got it.' The ending, however, is commonly seen as the 'weak link.' It didn't seem to match the rest of the work's seriousness. The ending in particular was often panned by critics, but in reality Shostakovich made it loud and simple on purpose. He was, after all, under orders. The string section's repeating note at the end seemed to say, "There. Is this simple enough for you?" 

The problem with the ending has now been resolved by Petrenko. He is a great conductor and he realized that, by slowing the tempo down considerably, it would make the ending match the rest of the symphony. It is now something monumental and profound. I only wish Shostakovich himself could hear what Petrenko has done. I'm sure the composer would be very pleased, indeed. Bravo, Petrenko. Bravo!

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