The Astonishing History of Shostakovich’s Symphony No 7


From The Guardian:

All of these criticisms, which continue today – the composer and writer Robin Holloway, for example, describes Shostakovich as “music to rouse rabble, to be seen from far away like slogans in letters 30 feet high, music without inner musical necessity” – stem from a particular interpretation of Shostakovich: his compositional crudity, his supposedly simplistic contrasts of material, colour and texture, and his unashamed desire to communicate.

Yet there is a deep sophistication in what Shostakovich is doing in this piece at precisely the moments when its surfaces seem the most banal. The innocent but insidious tune that blows apart the first movement is designed to be as mundane as possible. It’s an image of how the most mediocre and unthinking idea – or person – can inflict the greatest devastation. Shostakovich was revealing and realising an abiding truth of all ideological tyrannies. As he told a friend after he finished the symphony, one of its themes is “fascism. But music, real music, can never be literally tied to a theme. National Socialism is not the only form of fascism; this music is about all forms of terror, slavery, the bondage of the spirit.”

Read the rest.