Classical music historian Michael Tilson Thomas hosts this unusual glimpse into the life and work of seminal Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, which rests on an unusual historical footnote. The program delineates how, although Shostakovich feared for his life at the hands of the Soviet Army (because of an opera publicly condemned in a local paper), he successfully attempted to "redeem" himself writing a hymn to the motherland, the 1937 Symphony No. 5. It then makes a radical suggestion: the composer may have buried sharp criticism of the U.S.S.R. within the composition. Thomas explores this idea at length, against the backdrop of Shostakovich's personal history, and dissects the composition in question. As an added bonus, the program includes a full-length concert rendition of the work by the San Francisco Symphony, mounted and filmed at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
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