The Tenth Symphony was Shostakovich’s first symphonic work since 1945 and his humiliation due to the “antiformalisitic” cleansings of 1948, during which he lost his teaching positions in Moscow and Leningrad. During the time between 1945 and Josef Stalin’s death on 5 March 1953, Shostakovich represented the Soviet Union at a number of so-called “international peace congresses.”
By 1953, a considerable number of serious works had accumulated on his shelves, either awaiting their first performances or their rehabilitation. Solomon Volkov wrote in his book “Testimony” that the Tenth Symphony was about “Stalin and the Stalin years,” a theory still being hotly debated today.
There is no more mockery and lightness in the tone of this work; the tone is of mourning and lament; the symphonic work of Tchaikovsky nears like a stylistic legacy.