If ever there was music written by someone who was composing as if their life depended on it, Shostakovich 5 would be it. Prior to this, Stalin had reportedly canned Shostakovich’s music (hence the reference to “just criticism”!) following which some party officials and then Pravda got on his case. In 1930’s Russia no doubt this was about one step off exile to a Siberian gulag (or worse). We know that Shostakovich immediately shelved his 4th symphony (presumably more of the same – I’ve never heard it) and set to work on the 5th, with a clear intention of making it more “soviet”. The fact that he lived suggests that it hit the mark, and the fact that it’s become one of very few 20th century symphonies to be amongst the standard “classics” suggests that – in the face of what must have been extraordinary pressure - he wrote something very special indeed. So special that having heard it on Friday night I couldn’t resist going back for another helping on Saturday evening.