That score was not seen again and, unless discovered in recent times, is presumed to have been destroyed during the siege of Leningrad.
By the time the composer withdrew the great symphony, however, he had already made an arrangement of the music for two pianos. But of fundamental significance to the survival of the music was the fact that, while the score vanished, all of the orchestral parts remained: the symphony was in rehearsal for its first performance on the day that Shostakovich withdrew it.
A quarter of a century later, when the Soviet political climate was perhaps a little warmer, and Shostakovich had the opportunity at last to hear what some feel (including this addict) is his greatest symphony, the composer considered revising it, but decided to let it stand.
Although 1936 seems such a long time ago, as we accelerate into the performing and recording history of the piece, it all seems recent, modern and, indeed, contemporary. Kyril Kondrashin and the Moscow Phil gave the first performance in 1961. The following year it had its UK debut at the Edinburgh Festival. Also in 1962 it received its first commercial recording with Kondrashin and the Moscow Phil. (I'm proud to possess that one.) In '63 Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia gave the US premiere of the Fourth. No further commercial recordings were made until 1977, when there was an outbreak with the recording by Previn and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra then, two years later, by Haitink and the London Phil.
In 1986, there was a big one from within Russia, from Rozhdestvensky and the USSR Ministry of Culture Orchestra. But in 1989 came a defining moment of the Fourth with the Chandos recording by Neeme Jarvi and the RSNO. That was a benchmark recording, and I live with it (to say nothing of the searing concert performances from that team). To this day, never mind your Rattles and Wiggles-worths, the Jarvi version has remained scalding and unrivalled. Now it has been matched, though not bettered, by the blazing recording from Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, recorded in February for their stupendous Shostakovich cycle on Naxos. Jarvi is more visceral, Petrenko more controlled, but the two are complementary in supreme per-formances of this pulverising masterpiece.
There is still missionary work to be done for this symphony. A lot of people just don't get it, especially its colossal half-hour third movement finale. I went to a Royal Albert Hall performance years ago (did I happen to mention I'm an addict of the Fourth)? After the conundrum of the finale, with its weird section (I call it Shostakovich's playground) where the composer appears to have abandoned his marbles and fields an array of toytown marches and cheeky cartoon music, a senior BBC music executive said to a colleague: "What was all that about?" Well, it was all about the Mahler philosophy, writ large and writ Russian: a symphony should embrace the world and every aspect of our lives.
I would urge you to get this newest take on one of the greatest symphonies of the 20th century. If you don't know it, give it lots of hearings and lots of time. It's a tough one, and a bit scary in places. Gradually the links will become apparent and all the bits will cohere in your mind. This was a total genius at work. One day the Fourth Symphony will be acknowledged as the complete masterpiece that it is. Petrenko's interpretation and performance can only help. I've played it a dozen times in the past fortnight: now it plays itself in my head all the time. I'm off for a beer, yet another listen to the silver disc, and probably a few more revelations. Cheers.