The Fourth Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was completed in May 1936, but had to be withdrawn before it was performed due to the withering criticism and scrutiny Shostakovich was at the time receiving from Joseph Stalin and his increasingly repressive government. This symphony did not receive its first public performance until 1961. To get a sense of the enormous difficulties Shostakovich had to endure under the Soviet regime—and the extraordinary music of one of the 20th century’s most gifted composers, and indeed the last great symphonist—I highly recommend Robert Greenberg’s eight-part video course, Great Masters: Shostakovich – His Life and Music.
The Fourth Symphony is certainly not one of Shostakovich’s more accessible works, but I want to draw your attention to the remarkable, ethereal conclusion of this symphony that few have ever heard.
My entire Shostakovich collection was lost in the Memorial Day weekend 2015 Houston flood, and I’m gradually trying to replace it. I am currently listening to all fifteen Shostakovich symphonies in an excellent box set, conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007). Rostropovich was a close friend of Shostakovich.
Here is the final 4m45s of the third and final movement (Largo — Allegro) of the Symphony No. 4 in C minor, op. 43, by Dmitri Shostakovich, performed by the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich. Turn up the volume—after the first couple of seconds, it is all very quiet. Enjoy!