The five discs of the series with symphonies by Dmitri Shostakovich present symphonies Nos 4, 7, 8, 11 and 13. The sixth programme adds two more symphonies – No. 5 and No. 6. They were composed within a period of two years and differ radically in their structure and imagery.
The Fifth Symphony was written for a short time and, according to Shostakovich’s words, “... it can be called a lyric and heroic symphony. Its basic idea is the experience of man and his life-giving optimism ... “.
The premiere was on 21 November 1937.
The original idea for Symphony No. 6 was to create a monumental work for soloists, choir and orchestra on the lyrics of “Vladimir Ilyich Lenin” by Vladimir Mayakovski But the poetic character of the poem makes the task it difficult for Shostakovich, and he tries to include other works about Lenin. The concept failed. However, the result was a contemplative and lyrical composition with a structure not typical for a symphony – there were three movements instead of four and the sonata allegro was missing. Perhaps for this reason some musicologists call it the “Headless Symphony”. It was played for the first time on 5 November 1939.
Both premieres were in the big hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, both were performed by the same orchestra and conducted by Yevgeny Mravinsky.