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On demand: Shostakovich's Symphony no. 10 in E minor

KonserthusetPlayRecorded at Konserthuset Stockholm: Stora Salen, Stockholm, Sweden

When Josef Stalin died in 1953, Shostakovich could exhale at last: his Symphony no. 10 in E minor had its premiere performance that same year.

Watch the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo perform one of Shostakovich's most personal works.

Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony 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.

Filmed in October 2016.

And if you love this piece, watch it again here performed by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra directed by Klaus Mäkelä.

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