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Current time:0:00Total duration:16:27

Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5. Analysis by Gerard Schwarz (part 1)

Video transcript

when we look at symphonic music of the 20th century Setsuko which obviously is one of the greatest of the 20th century composers he wrote 15 fantastic symphonies he made his first impact with the first symphony a student work and it was a sensation already people heard something very special in this composer the next piece of real significance symphonic Li was the fourth symphony by now he had written opera Lady Macbeth which had been criticized by Stalin in Pravda and when Stalin didn't like a piece here on the edge all of a sudden you might be in trouble he was criticized for his associations he was criticized for his music being formulas music whatever that may mean it wasn't patriotic enough it wasn't simple enough for the people he once was questioned and he was going to be questioned some more by the predecessors of the KGB fortunately for Shostakovich the man who was to win the question he became questioned himself and then this gesture kobish was safe for a while so we arrived at 1937 and it's time for the premiere of his fourth symphony his friends were concerned Mariinsky was going to do the premiere of the fourth symphony in Saint Petersburg and they decided to cancel the premiere they were afraid that it would meet with a bad reception from the authorities and after being so severely criticized he didn't want to take that chance so then he wrote the fifth symphony and shut Scopus work very quickly so in the spring he started by the summary finished that was premiered in st. Petersburg by Brzezinski and in the winter and was a huge sensation in a way if he was in trouble that piece saved his life the first movement is absolutely staggering and its concept I think it's important to know that by the time we're here in 1937 composers were much freer about form so we're Beethoven or Schumann pretty much worked in the first movement what we all sonata form where you have the exposition where all the material is exposed the development all that material is developed and the recapitulation where all that material is reprised composedly Shostakovich yes they they did some of that and sometimes they did it absolutely in an old-fashioned way other times was very freeform this symphonies first movement even though it feels very organic it feels like it belongs the way it's written is very much in the style of of being free form it begins in an interesting way it's an introduction but it's an aggressive introduction and it's a cannon that starts with the cellos and the basses they play this and then the violins play and then the cellos and basses on the violence and then that Kannamma gesture carries on now so the cellos and the bases and then the repeat violas and that becomes the accompaniment to the melody played by the first violins it's lyrical sad for me it's a said and then all of a sudden one win instrument playing initial material in unison with the pizzicato plucked cellos and basses eventually the woodwinds enter throughout this whole section the waters will come in playing a new material but the strings will come in again playing you'll hear coming back next comes the second theme the accompaniment now again we talked about how simple Shostakovich is accompaniments are he has this this this rhythm that he uses all the time it's long short short long short short that is the accompaniment to the melody played by the first violins this thing gets reduced at times we call that diminution it's made into a smaller gesture and at times it's augmented we call it augmentation where it's made into a bigger gesture this thing's gets then changed to be a viola melody and in this piece the very high violas have the same and one could say wide it's justa kobish right for the high violas that's the violin range but I think that there's a different sound and having the violas struggling in the highest register to play this melody beautifully is very different from having the violins play it easily and simply this leads us to the development section now it's interesting that it starts with the with the double basses in the piano and the low register playing notice the rhythm but bum-bum short short long short short long and then the melody that i told you about remember the violins playing well now that theme is made into very long notes much longer and in the very lowest register of the horn again it's from the violas playing too high you're gonna hear the horns playing too low and then the trumpets come in also playing in the very lowest register shortly after that the woodwinds enter when they enter they play that same thing except they play it fast again if you were just listening to it you wouldn't even notice it it just all seems to fit but now that I pointed out to you and you you hear it in the orchestra's I hope Wow what he's doing there next we have that second theme but this time is condensed The Woodlands player twice three times faster finally it leads to the grotesque March you have that same rhythm long short short long short short long except played by the snare drum in this case we have used a low-pitched snare drum and in the trumpets the brass played that same first theme of the violins in a March and a very aggressive way eventually all the woodwinds join and all the brass join in and it builds up to this tremendous climax where we have the same material from the very beginning of the piece in a cannon with the upper woodwinds and the upper strings and the middle range woodwinds and the middle range strings but playing it much much faster it just feels like everything's gonna explode and it does it builds up to an incredible climax he slows it down now most people would go faster for the climax he brings it back and brings it back the whole orchestra is playing that theme same one that first theme in unison it's the end of the development or it's the beginning of the recapitulation I do this bringing all the material back from the beginning in this very loud way in a very free way like a richer to TiVo and it's punctuated by the timpani and the brass when it comes to an end we again go back to the same long short short long accompaniment and this time the flute plays the melody the second melody but there's an incredible answer by the horn it's magical moment a duet for the flute and warm and the horn again into the highest register very difficult and a great great moment which leads us to what we can call the coda which is also fascinating because what happens is that their theme that we know so well is played in what we call inversion so instead of going down it goes up this time played by the flute we've heard that punctuation of the tympani and the trumpets at the end of the wretched 'ti bow now he used that punctuation but very very softly and he writes up solo for the piccolo and the solo violin poignant ended and at the end he brings in the cellist and it just evaporates you