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Shostakovich Symphony No. 10

When Josef Stalin died in 1953, Shostakovich could exhale at last. His tenth symphony had its premiere performance that same year. The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo perform one of his most personal works.

Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 premiered in December 1953 to immediate acclaim. The music is full to bursting with dramatic peaks, gorgeous melodies and palpable pain. Many have interpreted it as a reckoning with the political oppression he felt during the Stalin Era. He said himself that “the second movement, the scherzo, is a musical portrait of Stalin. The symphony also contains much more, of course, but that is the foundation.”

Among other things, he was referring to composing himself into the music by transcribing the letters of his name into German, and using the first letter of his first name and the first three letters of his surname, which become, in German musical notation, the notes D, Es, C, H. The notes are the base of one of the themes in the third movement. The name Elmira is also coded into the music. Elmira Nazirova was a young pianist and student to whom Shostakovich felt a powerful attraction. And even if the music is a reckoning with earlier political tyranny, it is nevertheless also filled with fiery passion.

  • The music

  • Dmitri Shostakovich Symphony No. 10
  • Participants

  • Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Sakari Oramo conductor
  • Filmed in October 2016.
  • The video is approximately one hour.

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