In Soviet Russia, Shostakovich did what Beethoven had done 150 years earlier: with his symphonies, he held up a mirror to society. Both Beethoven’s Fourth and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony are in good hands with conductor Paavo Järvi, a specialist in Russian repertoire.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 has always been somewhat overshadowed by the Third (‘Eroica’) and the dramatic Fifth. And that means there’s so much more to discover in this work, in which Beethoven showcases his spiritual, rather than his temperamental, side. It is a remarkably subdued work, with expressive parts for the woodwinds and – particularly unique – for the timpani.
The Symphony No. 10 was a milestone in Shostakovich’s œuvre and is a direct reaction, albeit not one of relief, to the death of his great tormentor Stalin in 1953. Years of repression and intimidation had left deep scars. With this work, Shostakovich said he wanted to express ‘human emotions and desires’ – a safe description. Yet, grinding his teeth, he also sets about tackling his traumas: melancholy, fierce little marches and caricature ‘Soviet music’ alternate.