"We are told that the party commissars in 1961 thoroughly enjoyed the work (did they not feel the barbarous force with which the composer invested ‘The Dawn of Humanity,’ quite apart from the use of the minor key?) but that critics both in Russia and elsewhere were less impressed. I think the latter too may have been wrong in their too-easy assumption that Shostakovich was nailing his colours to the Communist Party mast, since if one regards the score as an ‘absolute’ symphony the alleged programme becomes almost irrelevant, as it is for example in the Tenth – about whose quality doubts have never been raised. Perhaps we need to hear this relatively-neglected member of the Shostakovich symphonic canon more often."
Nor, it seems to me, should anyone feel bored by the Eleventh even at its most protracted - if the listener thinks of it as a sort of atmospheric film score, the visual images it conjures up can be highly effective - provided the conductor does not allow the music to stagnate. But of course others will feel differently. What we need to avoid is the assumption that Shostakovich - at least in his mature years - ever wrote purely to please the 'party line'.
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