During my music education I was more focused on classical styles of western composers up until times of Beethoven. Namely, I understand the structure and some ideas behind music by Vivaldi, Bach, Haydn and how to find similar pieces if I want to.

The symphonies of late 19th century, not to mention what comes later, already sound exotic to me. With time I came to appreciate Rachmaninoff, and his approach to harmony is among my favorite one nowadays. I understand that it relates to the late romanticism, and if I want to look for something similar, I can try e.g. Debussy. I don't particularly like avant garde music, of which I had to listen a lot to Prokofiev and Stravinsky, but at least I do understand some reasons behind their approach and again, I can find something similar quite easily.

I'm completely lost though when it comes to Symphonies 5 and 10 by Shostakovich. That's more melodic that avant garde, but definitely less harmonic than late romanticism. Which kind of style is that, what has led to it, and how can I understand it best?

  • 1
    Welcome! Please take a moment to read through the topics that are covered here. This question has gotten some close votes because we don't cover questions that have "list-like answers," like "what are all of Beethoven's pieces in Bb major." These kinds of questions are not very substantive and of little use to other visitors. But in my opinion this question has attracted those close-votes just because of the last clause, "what other works are there," when mostly it's a question about how to analyze Shostakovich's works. Sep 19, 2022 at 12:40
  • 1
    You're on the right track in understanding that the path to appreciating a style is understanding it. I'll let some of the more theory-specialized users speak to the best way to analyze Shostakovich's musical language (form, tonality, melodic structures, etc.). Meanwhile, I'll take the liberty of editing the last phrase to focus more on your core question than on a request to name other works; feel free to revert or re-edit if you disagree. Sep 19, 2022 at 12:43
  • @AndyBonner that's very kind of yours, thanks a lot!
    – SBF
    Sep 19, 2022 at 14:00
  • @Ilya, try looking up the topic Neoclassicism. Also, if Prokofiev and Shostakovich are too harsh for your taste try listening to Poulenc, Honegger, and Villa-Lobos. Keep in mind neoclassical composers often worked in that style for only a period of time, so you may find other styles from those composers. Sep 19, 2022 at 15:11
  • 1
    @Ilya, there are so many composers to listen to. Also, try Bohuslav Martinů. IMO neoclassicism didn't draw on classical harmony, it was deliberately dissonant compared to 18th century harmony. The classical borrowings are a bit more superficial, like melodic figuration (imagine Alberti bass patterns "on the wrong notes") and clear phrase delineation (think forms like dance suite or baroque concerto rather than Wagner's Ring cycle.) Sep 19, 2022 at 20:22


Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.