In this immensely powerful wartime symphony, Shostakovich looks beyond the anguish of violence, in search of hope and renewal.
The Eighth Symphony was written in 1943, in the depths of World War II, and is a musical response to violence and suffering on a cataclysmic scale — perhaps as a direct reaction to the War itself, perhaps as a condemnation of the oppression and tyranny of Stalin.
Although the Symphony was premiered with the approval of the Soviet authorities, five years later it was savagely condemned by those same authorities as ugly, pessimistic and therefore out of keeping with the glorious Soviet vision of a workers’ paradise. Performances were banned, the scores pulped and recordings destroyed. It was not until 1956, three years after the death of Stalin, that the Eighth Symphony was ‘rehabilitated’.