Not until later on, in his posthumously published memoirs, did Shostakovich provide a personal insight into his Symphony No. 8 in C minor, Op. 65, which he completed on September 9, 1943 in only two months’ time, following a short, yet agonisingly dry creative period: “The Seventh and the Eighth are my ‘Requiem’.” At the time, his first comments on the new work were very different, and (as was usual during Stalin’s regime, one should add) meaningless: “This work mirrors my thoughts and feelings following the joyous reports on the first victories of the Red Army.” For sure ... After all, it would be hard to come up with another 20th-century symphony that soundsas inscrutable and sadly fateful as Shostakovich’s Eighth.
Following his triumphant Leningrad Symphony, the composer had deeply disappointed the expectations of the Apparatschik with this work, as a great part of the Eighth is pensive and melancholy, and does not announce the victory of the Red Army at Stalingrad. Quite the opposite, instead of producing emotional and enduring symphonic music, Shostakovich the man not only expresses his deep mourning of the dreadful tragedy of the Second World War and its countless victims, he also announces in the most deeply pessimistic tone the individual suffering of the people in the Soviet Union, who (also before the war) suffered and died under Stalin’s reign of terror. Shostakovich’s hope that the authorities would interpret the resignative tone of the work as a consequence of the German aggression, was rapidly dashed, and thus the Eighth was censured in1948, after Shostakovich, Prokofiev and other leading composers had been accused of “formalistic tendencies”. The symphony was banned from the concert podium, and numerous radio recordings of the work were destroyed.