His 4th symphony is one of the most amazing pieces of music ever written, it is frightening, it is stupendous, it is a masterpiece and one of his greatest works, I recommend you listen to it.
I completely and utterly agree with you. It's his most Mahlerian work, and the most underrated of his works. It's the work which marks his breakthrough into greatness as a composer, after the juvenilia of his 2nd and 3rd symphonies. The reason it's been neglected is mainly political - it was being rehearsed at the same time as his opera 'Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk' was being performed. When Stalin saw the opera, he was outraged at its modernism, its sexual frankness and its anti-authoritarian message. Stalin walked out halfway through, and a few days later an article appeared in 'Pravda' entitled 'Chaos instead of music'. Shostakovich was in serious trouble, and might even have been have been arrested. The immediate consequence of all this was that his 4th symphony, which was even more modernist and jagged than his opera, was withdrawn just before its premiere. It remained unperformed for the next three decades. Shostakovich hastily composed his 5th symphony as "a Soviet artist's reply to just criticism". The 5th symphony touches all the bases of Socialist Realism and is utterly conventional and bland. Bits of the finale even sound like overblown film music. His 5th is probably his most overrated symphony, while his 4th is his most underrated.
What on earth did he mean by the ending, the section just before the actual ending is a very fitting ending for the preceeding movements, yet it is contradicted by a very slow and pathetic ending. He is a genius!
I think the ending of the 4th is one of the most extraordinary pieces of music Shostakovich ever composed. After all the Sturm und Drang, all the angst and rage and despair of the preceding movements, we enter a luminous realm of peace and reconciliation. The conflict and rage is burned away to leave transcendently beautiful calm, a glimpse of the 'peace which passes all understanding'. Every time I hear it, I'm enraptured by it again.
And it's a damn sight better as the ending of a symphony than the vulgar bombast of the finale of his 5th.
Try his Viola sonata, his last work, for size, it is some of the most beautiful and most symbolic music he wrote, take for instance the extensive quotation of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata to represent Shostakovich's own immortality, as he wished to be remembered as Beethoven was before him. It is not vulgar, however, he changed the time signature and tempo and altered the notation, but it can still be heard and never fails to raise the hairs on my arms! The first section is simply ridden with his own personal pain as he lay on his deathbed writing the music, the horiffic sounding Viola striking out high notes in anguish and pain.
Have you heard his 15th symphony? He uses extensive quotation in that work, both from other composers and from his own earlier work. And the ending of the 15th is breathtaking. Shostakovich had suffered a heart attack while composing the 15th, and the coda at the end of the symphony mimics the clicking and whirring of the machines which were keeping him alive in hospital. It is a reminder both of his physical mortality and of his spiritual immortality at the same time. Simply amazing.
Anyway, I could rant all day on this genius, the BEST composer of the Twentieth Century
I think Stravinsky has the edge over him, but not by much.
But yes, an amazing composer. He was one of the glories of Soviet art.