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Why did Shostakovich not release his 4th, but did release his 5th symphony? (The 4th was released eventually, just not when it was written)

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  • Hi. These types of questions are not a perfect fit on this SE, but will be for Music Fans SE, which is currently in the commitment phase. Please register at area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/61574/music-fans. Aug 31, 2014 at 12:39
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    @MeaningfulUsername these questions do fit here since we have a history tag Aug 31, 2014 at 19:51
  • @Shevliaskovic: Well, if the two SE's were up and running, it would for sure be a better fit there. Is the question "Why was band A's first intended single not released?" also on topic? Likely not. It's still a music fan question, in my mind it does not matter that the music is old. Sep 1, 2014 at 7:11
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    @MeaningfulUsername I think that would depend. I mean a question like "Concerning Beethoven's 9th ..." would fit here, but a question like "Who is Justin Bieber referring to in 'Baby'?" would not. Sep 1, 2014 at 7:15
  • @Shevliaskovic: Let's take it to meta: meta.music.stackexchange.com/questions/895/… Sep 1, 2014 at 7:39

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As far as I can remember, the fourth is far more experimental in character. Considering the restrictions of the cultural climate in the USSR at that time, the fourth would probably not have been deemed as suitable for publication.

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    Yep, in fact Stalin had just had Pravda explicity denounce Shostakovich and his music when he was finishing the fourth symphony. It went into rehearsals despite that, but Shostakovich withdrew it at the last minute, presumably realizing that such a strange piece would just increase the trouble he was in. The fifth was (at least in its explicit program) crowd-pleasing and patriotic. Aug 31, 2014 at 15:09
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    @PatMuchmore Not just crowd-pleasing, but also authority-pleasing - it carried an explicit grovelling subtitle "Practical reply of a soviet composer to justified criticism"! Sep 26, 2016 at 6:35

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