The Sixth was completed in 1939, two years after the enormous (and vindicating) success of the Fifth. Expectations were high, therefore – a factor Shostakovich seems to have had some trouble with overcoming, given his apparent

abandonment of a postulated ‘Lenin Symphony’ at that time.2 What emerged instead could not have been more different from that initial plan: the music of the Sixth is introverted, melodic, at times beautiful and at others dark. Although Shostakovich described the work as a combination of ‘spring, joy, youth [and] lyricism’,3 the first movement in fact contains some of his bleakest music. It is also interesting in the extent to which it avoids the typical sonata model, making only loose references to it instead. As will be seen, the primary structural force here is the way in which form grows out of content. But in order to make that claim it is necessary first to consider three musical dimensions individually – thematic, tonal and timbral organization – then to demonstrate multi-dimensional relationships.