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Leonard Bernstein conducted with an almost unparalleled level of ease and control, which he seemed able to apply to nearly any score he laid eyes on—a mastery that is on full display in this vintage performance from 1966 at the helm of the London Symphony Orchestra. Their rendition of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony is one for the record books: infused with the intense energy that characterizes many of Bernstein's recordings, it is undoubtedly one of the most moving performances of the work in recorded music history.
Composed in 1937 in the oppressive political climate of Stalin's reign of Great Terror, the symphony has been described as “a document of creative survival and rebirth" (Fay and Fanning in The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians). Reports from its premiere that same year describe a weeping audience during the slow movement and a cathartic 30-minute ovation at the work's end.