Shostakovich’s music is such an important chronicle of life in 20th century Soviet Russia, and here are two pillars of that story.
Composed during Stalin’s reign of terror, the First Violin Concerto is one of a handful of works which were hidden away unpublished until after the dictator’s death in order to avoid arrest by the authorities. The soloist needs to draw on vast reserves of emotional stamina and enormous technical skills, with even its dedicatee David Oistrakh noting ‘it does not fall easily into one’s hands’.
The Tenth Symphony was written after Stalin’s death and portrays the tragedy, despair, terror and violence of his tenure. The second movement is a musical portrait of Stalin, a march of unremitting terror and frenzied violence, while the finale contains some of the slowest of the whole symphony, a reminder of the desolation of the Gulag prisoners.