Written by Ben Wright


Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony has always been a favorite of mine to play – but, here’s the question? Have you heard his 4th Symphony? Check out the BSO’s recent recording of it to hear some crazy stuff! It never shows up on auditions and is rarely played, but it is big, brawny, and bristly in that awesome Shostakovich way. My colleague, Tom Rolfs, principal trumpet of the BSO, sounds incredible in all of the Boston Symphony’s Shostakovich cycle, but especially so in this piece.

Shostakovich’s fifth symphony sounds like a lullaby by comparison. 

Have you ever had trouble making the 16ths square enough in the march, while keeping the phrases long at the same time? This was an excerpt that I struggled with while in school – it is such a strange combination of square rhythms, long lines, and rests. It can take awhile to put it all together. 

The next time you practice it, play long marcato 8th notes during the half notes to subdivide. Take care to drive through them – if they are light or mechanical they won’t do you much good. We’re using them to not only keep the notes the right length but to ensure we don’t let the phrase go slack. Also practice the 8th note/8th rest/sixteenth figures as straight 8th notes to get the feel of the phrase better. You can also deliberately play the WRONG rhythm here – play triplets instead of 16ths and you’ll immediately know if you’ve been playing your 16ths inaccurately.  Don’t practice it with triplets more than once though!! Of course you can also practice the figure with 16th divisions. Notice in my rendition the crescendos that aren’t printed – these are traditional and really help drive the phrasing along. 


In my 7 and 12-week T5 programs, members get to play along with me with a feature I call Symphony Stage. Here is the march from the 1st movement of Shostakovich 5th Symphony with me playing all the parts. 

What are your plans for improving your playing this fall? If you’re looking for a one-stop learning experience where you get lessons, masterclasses, a community of similarly driven players, and much more, check out my T5 Fall Semester 2021 HERE.


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