Music GCSE: Shostakovich and the effects of Nazi rule on composers

The 1930s saw a halt to the the modernist movement as dictators such as Adolf Hitler in Germany and Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union demanded that musicians create patriotic music for the masses and put an end to 'degenerate' music.

Any musician who dared counter this demand risked their life. Howard Goodall examines the era, looking at some of the 20th century's greatest composers - Béla Bartók, Carl Orff, Richard Strauss and Dmitri Shostakovich - who each learnt to survive with their own unique strategy.

He tells the extraordinary story of Shostakovich's 7th Symphony, performed and broadcast as a symbol of hope in the midst of the horrifying siege of Leningrad during World War Two.

Features extracts from Béla Bartók - Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936), Carl Orff - Carmina Burana, Dmitri Shostakovich - 7th symphony.

This clip is from the series Howard Goodall's Story of Music.

Teacher Notes

This clip would be good for illustrating how the historical and cultural environment that composers work in can have a massive influence on their music.

Using this clip as a springboard, students could select another piece of music and research the cultural and musical context in which it was written, and how this may have affected the work.

This clip sets the context for an exploration of the Leningrad Symphony. For example, the second movement can be used for a listening or analysis activity, where the successive instruments playing variations on the violin's initial theme are identified and the nature of their variations discussed.

Curriculum Notes

This topic is relevant to, GCSE, AS Level and Higher Music in the areas of music history, notation, composition, music theory and understanding styles.

More from Howard Goodall's Story of Music:

Notation and melodic movement
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Harmony, intervals, triads and cadences
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Harmony, dissonance and an introduction to opera
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Key signatures, equal temperament and the 12-tone tuning system
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Handel, the pianoforte and oratorio
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Mozart, melodic writing and the symphony
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Haydn, symphonies and melodic writing
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A profile of Beethoven
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Franz Liszt, symphonic poems and orchestral music
Saint-Saëns and developments in French composition
video
Debussy, world music and impressionism
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Minimalism and the advance of music technology
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Stravinsky, Russian music and modernism
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Blues and ragtime
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