Taking a look at the opening bars of Shostakovichs' Symphony 5th and Beethovens' 7th symphony 4th movement (bar 136 onwards) see below they sound kind of similar.

Somebody suggested (Radio 3 I think) Shostakovich did this intentionally, but I cannot find anything to support this. What is the truth of it?

Shostakovich Shostakovich Beethoven Beethoven

  • 3
    thank you for this question, what ever the answer will be, I am very happy that there are questions like this. II've been the greatest fan of shostakovich since 1965. I wish I could have written this music! (Then I could probably tell you the answer. Thanks to you I have found this site: khanacademy.org/humanities/music/music-masterpieces-old-new/… Mar 26 '19 at 13:28
  • This question asks for both an opinion and resources. Neither opinions nor resource requests are on topic here. Mar 26 '19 at 19:09
  • The first interval in Shostakovich's piece is a minor 6th, the same interval played by the viola at measure 137 in Beethoven's piece. And both sections use a similar syncopated rhythm. But these aren't particularly unusual choices to make, so I'm not sure that the similarities are anything besides a coincidence.
    – Kevin
    Mar 26 '19 at 20:30
  • As Todd said - the question is asking for opinion and resources. Off topic. Closed as Opinion based.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Mar 27 '19 at 9:45
  • @Todd Wilcox I was not asking for an opinion though people have given that I was asking whether this was Shostakovichs' intention. As to the references I would say any answer should supported by a reference where appropriate see answers on math.stackexchange.
    – onepound
    Mar 28 '19 at 10:13

Who is the "somebody" who suggested the connection?

Whilst Shostakovitch wrote deliberately, I don't think he wrote it trying to evoke the Beethoven:

  • The rhythmic emphasis is different - the Shostakovitch has a phrase with long notes starting on the beat, with a 32nd note just before the next strong beat. The Beethoven has the motion closer to the start of the phrase.
  • The Shostakovitch has canonical string entries - it's the same line with staggered entries. The Beethoven doesn't do that - the string entries aren't canonical.
  • They're harmonically different - the Shostakovitch is deliberately unsettling - you can't say for certain you're in a particular key. But the Beethoven sounds like one-chord-per bar - a completely different effect.
  • The Beethoven passage looks like the preparation for a key change, so it's context is different - it's intended as a connecting passage rather than as a presentation of new material. In the Shostakovitch, it's the opening of the movement, so it's definitely not just a "transition passage".
  • And finally the Shostakovitch sounds savage - again, completely different to the Beethoven.

The only justification I can see for drawing a comparison between the two is that they both feature high and low strings in a "conversational" passage. Apart from that, I just don't see it.

  • I think you really have to listen to it to see what the radio 3 presenter meant.
    – onepound
    Apr 22 '19 at 9:27

I don't believe that Shostakovich was thinking of Beethoven here. Of course he knew the 7th Symphony.

If anybody could answer this would be Gerard Schwarz. But he mentions the name of Beethoven only in another context. (2:06)

If you want to find an other similarity to Beethoven's 7th there is one in the accompaniment at 13:45, but this would be very, very searched.

I've copied here the whole subtitles:

(1:58) I think it's important to know that by the time we're here in 1937, composers were much freer about form. So, where Beethoven or Schuman pretty muchworked in the first movement in what we call sonata form where you have the exposition where all the material is exposed, the development, all that material is developed, and the recapitulation, where all that material is reprised; a composer like Shostakovich, yes, they did some of that, and sometimes they did it absolutely in an old fashioned way. Other times, it was very free form. This symphony's first movement, even though it feels very organic, it feels like it belongs the way it's written, is very much in the style of being free form. It begins in an interesting way.

("Symphony No. 5" by Dmitri Shostakovich)

(3:07) It's an introduction, but it's an aggressive introduction, and it's a canon. It starts with the cellos and the basses. They play this [gentle instrumental music], and then the violins play [gentle instrumental music], and then the cellos and basses [gentle instrumental music], and the violins [gentle instrumental music]. And then that canonic gesture carries on now.

  • As Brian analysis shows there are more differences than similarities in the passages. You don't have to be depth as most people won't here like it will sound. 2-3 points are obvious: The instrument setting (strings), the up mouvement in bigger intervals and the imitation. You could say it's a similar picture - but not more. Mar 26 '19 at 14:33
  • I don't think the wall of text adds anything, here. Nobody's going to read it and, if they did, they wouldn't get anything out of it because there's no indication of what parts of the music the words are referring to. Mar 26 '19 at 14:53
  • David, I will delete it later. OP and those who are interested can read it. The min. and sec. indicate the spoken text and the time in the video. Mind that not everyone here is english speaking and not everyone knows how to copy subtitles. Mar 26 '19 at 15:02
  • @DavidRicherby I read it and found it helpful. It gave me just enough context to be convinced the video sees no reason to even consider whether Shostakovich was trying to copy Beethoven. And it was much faster than watching an entire lecture.
    – Kevin
    Mar 26 '19 at 20:32

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