For Dmitri Shostakovich, reaching the heights of the Soviet musical establishment proved easier than staying there. He triumphed with his Fifth Symphony of 1937, which marked the composer's return to official favour after the denunciation of his second opera and third ballet. Following that success, Shostakovich faced the problem of the sequel: whether or not, in the Sixth Symphony, to repeat, refute, or re-inscribe. I propose Shostakovich first thought about going big with his new project, composing a grand text-based score about Lenin, and then considered going small, grounding the first movement in folk fare and mixing light genres in the others. But in the end, he chose a more experimental approach. The Sixth Symphony collapses boundaries, both semantic and syntactic, pulling them back from a fixed state into a play of possibilities.
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