The War Symphonies: Shostakovich Against Stalin (1997)

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Documentary on how composer Dmitri Shostakovich used his Fourth to Ninth Symphony as a silent protest against the crimes of Stalin.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Valery Gergiev ...
Himself - Conductor "Symphonies Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9" and "Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk District" / Interviewee / Pianist "Rayok"
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic ...
Themselves - Orchestra "Symphonies Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9"
Flora Litvinova ...
Herself - Friend
Graham Haley ...
Shostakovich (voice)
Dmitri Shostakovich ...
Himself (archive footage)
Dmitri Tolstoy ...
Himself - Composer
Himself (archive footage)
Bulat Minzhilkiev ...
Boris - Opera "Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk District" / Himself - Baritone "Rayok"
Irina Loskutova ...
Katerina - Opera "Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk District"
The Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre ...
Themselves - Orchestra (Opera "Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk District")
Karen Khachaturyan ...
Himself - Composer (as Karen Khachaturian)
Abram Gozenpud ...
Himself - Musicologist
Mariana Sabinina ...
Herself - Musicologist
Mariya Konniskaya ...
Herself - Friend
Natan Perelman ...
Himself - Friend


During the Interwar period and World War Two, Joseph Stalin dictated Russia in a bloody manner. Composer Dmitri Shostakovich couldn't agree at all with the policies that the tyrant used, but speaking out loud was impossible. It would have cost him his life. Shostakovich found another way: art. This documentary shows how Shostakovich used his Fourth to Ninth Symphony as a silent protest against the crimes of Stalin. Written by Arnoud Tiele (

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Release Date:

10 May 2003 (Czech Republic)  »

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Crazy Credits

Dedicated to the memory of 'Veniamin Basner' who passed away during the making of this film. See more »


Features The Fall of Berlin (1950) See more »


Symphony No. 5
Performed by Netherlands Radio Philharmonic
Conductor: Valery Gergiev
See more »

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User Reviews

An incredible musical document!
1 January 2003 | by (Seattle, WA) – See all my reviews

This is a remarkable film on the War Symphonies of Shostakovitch & covers roughly the period 1936-1952. There is a seamless quality to the music & interview footage with ea. commenting incisively on the other.

The most powerful & amazing feature of the film is its depiction of the terrifyingly fragile existence that Shostakovich led during this period; thinking that his every breath (& certainly every new piece of music) might be his last if Comrade Stalin disapproved (as he sometimes did).

It is hard to find to view, but worth every cent of effort. Contact Bullfrog Films if you'd like to buy the video (it ain't cheap!)


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