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ClassicsOnline Home » SHOSTAKOVICH, D.: Girl Friends / Rule, Britannia / Salute to Spain (Polish Radio Symphony, Fitz-Gerald)
This treasure trove of Shostakovich rarities presents four world première recordings. The music for the film The Girlfriends, newly reconstructed from various original sources including the 1934 soundtrack and a number of recently discovered Preludes, and the scores for the stage productions of Salute to Spain and Rule, Britannia!, come from one of the most fertile and brilliant periods of the composer’s creative life and are almost completely unknown. The unfinished symphonic movement from 1945, that had lain hidden for more than half a century, turns out to be Shostakovich’s first idea for his Ninth Symphony. Described by DSCH Journal as ‘one of the indispensable Shostakovich interpreters of our time’, Mark Fitz-Gerald adds to his highly acclaimed reconstruction of Shostakovich’s music for the ‘sound-silent’ film Odna (Alone), released on Naxos 8.570316.
Rare Shostakovich works
Very good performances by the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra of rarely-heard works by Shostakovich makes this a most worth-while purchase. Recording quality is also good. more....
Film Music: The Neglected Art
The Exhaustive Shostakovich
Our enemy did not mock you,
At your death you were surrounded
By your own people, and we,
Your friends, closed your eagle eyes.
Dmitry Shostakovich (1906–1975)
Podrugi (The Girlfriends), Op. 41 (ii)
Rule, Britannia! Op. 28
Salute to Spain, Op. 44
Symphonic Movement (unfinished)
Podrugi (The Girlfriends), Op. 41 (ii)
By the time Shostakovich scored The Girlfriends he had over half a dozen films to his name, but even though it was Lev Arnshtam’s first directorial credit, he was almost equally experienced. Indeed the two men were old friends: they studied piano together at Petrograd Conservatory and when Arnshtam left Meyerhold’s theatre Shostakovich took over. In 1931 they came together again as composer and sound recordist on Alone, Kozintsev and Trauberg’s first sound film, before Arnshtam co-wrote The Golden Mountains with Sergey Yutkevich, The Girlfriends’ producer. Shostakovich preferred to work with friends and Arnshtam’s musicality made him one of his favourite directors. After The Girlfriends came Friends (1938), Zoya (1944), Five Days, Five Nights (1960) and Sofia Perovskaya (1967). In between Arnshtam directed the biopic Glinka (1946) and filmed Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet (1955) though his 1949 propaganda film The Warmongers, for which Shostakovich wrote a short march, was aborted.
The story of three girls who grow up to be nurses in the Civil War covered several bases: the war itself was already an iconic event in Soviet art and the film shows women’s contribution to the progress of socialism, while the dedication to the French socialist Romain Rolland was a gesture towards internationalism. Rolland’s seventieth birthday had just been impressively marked by Pravda and in April 1936 Shostakovich was asked to write music for a staging of his play Liluli but nothing came of it.
For Shostakovich this was a time of tumultuously changing fortunes. In late 1935 The Girlfriends was finished and pre-release reviews were positive. Shostakovich must have been particularly pleased that composer Mikhail Cheremukhin agreed with his aversion to “primitive illustration” and praised his technical command and natural “fascinating dynamism”. Even so, Cheremukhin felt the music was a little fragmentary. Nevertheless, with Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk continuing to win the enthusiasm of audiences in both Moscow and Leningrad, Shostakovich must have been looking forward to the film’s opening. At the end of January, however, Chaos Instead of Music, the notorious Pravda editorial condemning the opera, appeared and Shostakovich’s life was turned upside down.
The Girlfriends had already been chosen for overseas distribution and, under the title Three Women, began garnering positive reviews in America. Oddly this was a week before the Leningrad première. This and the long wait following the review screenings implies that, despite the positive reviews, some last minute problems held up the home release. This may account for Cheremukhin’s description of the opening, completely different from modern prints:
“The introductory toccata of the piano solo accompanied by orchestra is splendidly fresh. In the place of an overture-vignette in the manner of triumphal marches that are so unbearably annoying, we are presented with a cheerful and lovely flight of sounds that eschews sentiment.”
“The introductory toccata of the piano solo accompanied by orchestra is splendidly fresh. In the place of an overture-vignette in the manner of triumphal marches that are so unbearably annoying, we are presented with a cheerful and lovely flight of sounds that eschews sentiment.”
The present main title music [track 1] is the Moderato from Shostakovich’s First String Quartet, added when the film was restored in the 1960s. This was not such a random choice: the quartet appeared in 1938 and so is roughly contemporaneous, and much of the film’s score is for chamber forces. Coincidentally, at the time he described the quartet as “spring-like”, reiterating the point in 1951: “I tried to convey in it images of childhood, somewhat naïve, bright, spring-like moods.”
Looking back, Arnshtam mentioned the score’s “allegedly fragmentary form”, but felt that the interconnections between the many small pieces helped create a peculiarly unified film. But his claim that Shostakovich scored it with twelve preludes for string quartet is probably a case of misremembering (there are a few such moments in his memoirs). More often Shostakovich adds piano and trumpet to the strings: echoing the sound-world of his recent concerto.
The Girlfriends begins in 1914 outside the Russo-American Association of Rubber Manufacturers. Zoya and Senka argue before the local mothers call the children to dinner. On the way, Natasha tells Zoya and Asya about her violent father, accompanied by an ironically smoothly flowing Allegretto [track 2] while a militiaman orders the gatekeeper to lock up. At the climax Shostakovich pauses briefly while the militiaman tells Senka that there is a strike before the children scurry home.
With her father, grandmother and the girls, Zoya waits for her mother to come home [track 3]. A despondent repeated note counts out the hours before she enters to a passionate descending theme and desperately drinks from the tap. She tells Asya that her mother has been taken to hospital having been poisoned by the bosses.
The girls and Senka decide to earn money by singing at the local inn, The Keys to Happiness. Ironically, as the Soviet Union struggled against alcoholism, the name satirises the pre-Revolutionary customers’ drunken obliteration, but it was also the name of Anastasia Verbitskaya’s massively popular 1913 novel, in which a sexually liberated woman is driven to suicide, perhaps (ignoring the romantic element) implying that such Tsarist failures will be overturned in Soviet times. One of Shostakovich’s pawkiest tunes [track 4] slithers and skitters drunkenly, before the girls prepare to busk. Mocked by the men [track 5], they are thrown out but Silych takes pity on them. At his riverside camp he reveals that he is a revolutionary and teaches them the song Tormented by a Lack of Freedom [track 6] while they await his comrade Andrey. Shostakovich used the song again in the Eighth String Quartet (1960), when, coincidentally, he was working on Arnshtam’s Five Days, Five Nights.
There is a distant fanfare [track 7]. Ambiguously, it may be part of Sylich’s memory or it may be a real sound prompting him to remember his son, Igor, who was hanged for rebelling aboard the Battleship Potemkin. Silvery, melancholic music accompanies the end of Igor’s story but Sylich tells the children not to cry: it is not ended yet [track 8]. The music carries us back to the inn, where the newly encouraged children prepare to sing Tormented by a Lack of Freedom. The men ignore them but Andrey quietens the room. Gradually the song awakens everyone from their apolitical stupor and they join in Shostakovich’s increasingly complex arrangement [track 9] while the screen is filled with long tableau-like shots of the men’s earnest faces. Eventually, even the arrival of the militia cannot quell their fervour. The men rebelliously and passionately repeat the song, the children bow and a riot breaks out. Under its cover they escape with Sylich and Andrey.
At the film’s half-way point we go from 1914 to 1919, with the Civil War in full flight. Accompanied by a completely new timbre, a fanfare and organ voluntary [track 10], the girls have signed up as nurses.
Senka has also enlisted and Zoya spots him, but before he marches off accompanied by the Internationale [track 11] there is an inversion of the film’s opening scene: they kiss passionately and promise to keep in touch. Asya is not a little surprised and the crowd watches the lovers part. Boris Chirkov, who played Senka, also starred in Kozintsev and Trauberg’s Maxim Trilogy (1937–9), which Shostakovich began scoring at around this time and perhaps these two very sympathetic rôles helped establish him as a public favourite for the rest of his career.
By a battlefield railway line the girls minister to wounded soldiers, with a cue that ominously includes echoes of the fate motif from the Ring and the Dies irae [track 12]. In the distance a brass band announces that the enemy has taken the village of Pushkin [track 13] and it becomes imperative that the girls leave. A train arrives driven by Sylich. The girls climb aboard and there is an extraordinary presentation of the Internationale: rather than being exciting or grandly optimistic, a solo theremin veers more and more wildly off the melody until it is brought to heel: just as the risk to our heroines is eventually quelled [track 14].
One of the soldiers had told Zoya to meet a secret agent in a forester’s hut and, in the film’s tenderest highlight, she makes her way through a snowy forest [track 15]. The brief string trio captures her cautious progress through the beautiful dappled landscape. To her delight she discovers that the agent is none other than Senka and they snuggle up together under an animal skin in The Forester’s Hut [track 16] discussing their future together.
Senka and Zoya get back to camp to discover Silych annoyed and Natasha jealous at their dalliance. As they argue, a twisty little fanfare, like a pre-echo of King Lear (1970), heralds Andrey’s arrival [track 17]. He reiterates the existing orders under which Zoya and Senka were to be in separate parts of the battlefield anyway, and leaves to a second, more conventional, fanfare [track 18].
As the enemies approach, the girls gather straw to prepare for the arrival of more wounded men. They disturb a chicken and leap on it: soon we see its legs sticking out of a pot. Judging by Shostakovich’s music, there was originally a chase to catch the bird, but it was cut and the film did not use the comically frenetic music [track 19], reminiscent of the circus-y finale of the Piano Concerto No. 1. This may even have been the original opening prelude, described by Cheremukhin, moved but ultimately cut.
While the pot bubbles, the girls settle down to sing a sentimental little song Where are those warm nights? [track 20]. Some enemy soldiers arrive and Natasha escapes while (to Zoya and Asya’s dismay) the soldiers are distracted by the delicious chicken. Natasha alerts Silych and he and some men gallop to the rescue in what is, amazingly, the score’s first orchestral cue [track 21]. There is a brief shoot-out and Asya is wounded. Andrey and Senka return to a recap of the second half of his first fanfare [track 22], but it is too late: Asya is dead. Andrey gives a eulogy over her dead body, the strings later joined by the rest of the orchestra for a stirring climax [track 23]. He looks forward to the time when her death will be seen as a moment of victory; when children will be named Asya. Looking straight at the audience he says that though the path is difficult the future will be bright and that we [i.e. the audience] are working for the benefit of all mankind. The film ends with Andrey, Silych, Senka, Zoya and Natasha heading an army towards the camera.
However good the music of The Girlfriends was, it could not save Shostakovich from the Lady Macbeth fall-out and over the next two years he scored six films. As government interest in the arts deepened, some of the others involved saw mixed fortunes. Boris Poslavsky (Silych) wrote an article complaining about the shooting conditions but Yutkevich still cast him in The Miners (1937), though it was promptly banned, as was Boris Babochkin’s next vehicle, Great Wings. After the mega-success of Chapayev (1935), Babochkin was offered a series of one-dimensional positive heroes, leading to increasing frustration and, when he rebelled, a period in the wilderness. Worst of all, Adrian Piotrovsky, the polymathic manager of Lenfilm, who regularly worked with Shostakovich—he wrote Rule Britannia, also on this disc—was purged in 1938. Boris Chirkov (the adult Senka) and Yanina Zheimo (Asya), however, became very popular. The charming and diminutive Zheimo made something of a speciality of indomitable young women—her stature meant that she was able to play Asya both as an adult and a child even though she was 25 at the time.
Perhaps, in the storm surrounding Lady Macbeth , Shostakovich decided not to compile a Girlfriends suite, and it was forgotten. Even the recording (on a long-deleted Melodiya LP) of three fragments that Rozhdestvensky found in the Glinka Museum sparked no particular interest*. Certainly not all of Shostakovich’s film work around this time ranks highly but with The Girlfriends we have missed out, until now on one of his best and most interesting scores and an early engagement with chamber music.
* Rozhdestvensky’s transcription numbers them 1 [untitled] (here, The girls find a chicken [track 19]; 2 The Forester’s Hut [track 16]; and 6 [untitled] (The story of Silych’s son [track 8]; Shostakovich seems to have changed his mind when the soundtrack was being recorded, giving some of the manuscript’s piano part to the harp. Here it reflects its final form in the film).
A note on the reconstruction
We are most grateful to Mrs Irina Shostakovich for providing pre-publication copies not only of the 8 Preludes from Podrugi (tracks 2–4, 8 [see below], 16, 19 and 23) but for the Symphonic Movement (1945), and for suggesting that we record both works. We also thank her and her team at DSCH for producing the orchestral material for Rule, Britannia! and Salute to Spain especially for our recording. Our grateful thanks also go to Krzysztof Meyer for his useful observations and comments while the scores were being prepared for this recording, as well as to Olga Digonskaya who unearthed the long lost scores for Podrugi and the Symphonic Movement (1945) and provided much useful information about them.
Of the 23 movements comprising Podrugi the only other item available to us was the music for track No. 1 which forms the central section of the second movement (bars 11 to 62) of the composer’s String Quartet No. 1, Op. 49, completed in 1938 (four years after the film score). The remaining 15 movements were transcribed by ear from the film’s original soundtrack. Although various cuts and repeats had to be made to some of the existing preludes in order to make them fit with the film, we have recorded them as originally composed, with the exception of track 8 where the film combines two preludes very effectively into one number. During the recording of the soundtrack, the composer also made some important dynamic and tempo alterations which follow the drama of the film and which have been retained on this recording. The original introduction to track 23 was for solo string quartet but this was changed to a full string section for the film version. Shostakovich also added a harp to the score for track 8.
Rule, Britannia!, Op. 28 • Salute to Spain, Op. 44
Shostakovich composed thirteen scores for the theatre, the first eight of them in his twenties as part of a torrent of music for stage and screen. Although he sometimes bridled at the logistical constraints involved and rarely found much intrinsic merit in the productions he contributed to, there were good reasons for his steady productivity. Not everyone could write so effectively and so quickly to order, and his ability to do was a good source of income. While he was pondering his options in the field of instrumental composition, his theatre, ballet and cinema commissions gave him a sense of social worth and the stimulus of contact with performers and creative artists from related disciplines. And not least, the music he poured out at such high pressure and so rapidly was a springboard for more ambitious projects, above all operas and symphonies.
Rule, Britannia! was the last of three productions on which Shostakovich collaborated with Leningrad’s so-called Theatre of Working Youth (in Russian, Teatr Rabochey Molodyozhi, hence the acronym TRAM). Founded in the mid-1920s, with a mission to contribute to the transformation of human consciousness under Bolshevism, by May 1931 this collective had evolved from its roots in amateur/workers’ theatre into something more professional. It had even found itself paradoxically on the receiving end of criticism from by now dominant proletarian artistic factions.
Adrian Piotrovsky’s play Rule, Britannia! was intended as a demonstration of the theatre’s coming to maturity. However, it was never published and seems to have disappeared altogether, perhaps in connection with Piotrovksy’s arrest and execution in the 1938 purges during the Great Terror. The outlines of its subject-matter are similar to Shostakovich’s first ballet, The Golden Age, according to scholar Yelena Krivtsova. James, an engineer in a gas-works in the West, joins the communist party following the death of his wife. The plot then concerns struggles between the party and the blackshirts (i.e. fascists), in parallel with relations between the crew of a Soviet vessel and an English cannon-boat named ‘Rule, Britannia!’, both at anchor in a Western port. It seems that neither Shostakovich’s work on the production nor its hostile reception gave the composer any joy. In the absence of a complete autograph score, we have copies of five numbers, together with ‘Protest’, which Mark Fitz-Gerald has reconstructed from the composer’s piano score. Among the surviving orchestrated numbers are an arrangement of the Internationale—at that time the Soviet Union’s national anthem—and an Infantry March that Shostakovich would recycle the following year for the more ambitious and even more scandalous staging of Nikolay Akimov’s iconoclastic take on Hamlet.
Shostakovich’s high public profile, to which his theatre music made no small contribution, seemingly offered him no protection when in January and February 1936 he was denounced in two Pravda editorials for supposed ideological and stylistic sins in his second opera, The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District, and his third ballet, Bright Stream. Toppled almost overnight from his position as the great hope of Soviet music, he now faced a future of extreme uncertainty. As a hitherto little-known contribution to his rehabilitation, in October that year he was commanded by the Leningrad City Council to contribute music to Salute to Spain [or Hail, Spain!]. This was a play that Alexander Afinogenov, an established stalwart of proletarian theatre, had just knocked out on the topic of the Spanish Civil War (which had begun in summer 1936 and in which the Soviet Union supported the Spanish republicans against the eventually victorious fascists under General Franco). It featured the real-life figure of Dolores Ibárurri (known under her pseudonym of ‘La Pasionaria’, Passion Flower, she also figures in Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls), alongside a Mother who gives her three daughters to the anti-Fascist (i.e. Republican) struggle. The daughters include Lucia and the beautiful Rosita, following whose martyrdom an Old Man sings a sentimental lament. Afinogenov’s ‘Romantic Drama’, as it is styled in its published version, ends with an Epilogue at Lucia’s funeral. Here the second movement of Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony was to be heard, for which Shostakovich’s Funeral March is most likely a substitute, or if not, an anticipation or continuation.
During the preparations for recording Shostakovich’s incidental music to Alexander Afinogenov’s play Salute to Spain, Op. 44,
written in praise of the Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War, and premièred on 23 November 1936 at the Pushkin Theatre of Drama, Leningrad, it was discovered that two songs—По долинам и по взгорьям (Po dolinam i po vzgor’yam / Along the valleys and over the hills) and Мы идём (Mï idyom)—were intended to be performed as an integral part of the production in addition to Shostakovich’s music.
По долинам и по взгорьям  was a popular revolutionary song during the Civil War which followed Russia’s withdrawal in 1917 from World War I (music reputedly by Ilya Sergeyevich Aturov, text by Pyotr Semyonovich Parfenov, 1894–1943). It is heard on this recording in an arrangement for male chorus by Mark Fitz-Gerald, based on Shostakovich’s own version used in the Finale to the film Volochayevka Days, Op. 48 (the full score appears in Volume 41 of the Collected Works, pp. 265–268). Shostakovich also used the song in the patriotic cantata Poem of the Motherland, Op. 74.
Afinogenov’s precise intentions for Мы идём (We are going [on foot]) are not known, but a clue may lie in the stage directions, which call for a Spanish Civil War song ‘We are coming’ (or ‘We are marching’), to be sung by ‘an old man in Spanish’. For this recording we have therefore chosen ¡A las barricadas! (To the barricades!) , one of the most popular of all the Spanish Civil War songs, and adopted as the anthem of the Spanish CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo). The words are by the militant anarchist, translator and poet, Valeriano Orobón Fernández (1901–1936) and were written shortly before his death in June 1936, five months before the Leningrad première of Salute to Spain.
¡A las barricadas!, however, was the Spanish version of, originally, the Polish anti-Tsarist revolutionary song, Warszawianka 1905 (text by Wacław AwiΠcicki, 1848–1900, written in 1879), which calls upon the citizens of Warsaw to take up ‘the bloody fight. / Sacred and just! / March, march, Warsaw!’. With a text by Gleb Maximilianovich Krzhizhanovsky (1872–1959), this song became very popular in Russia during the 1905 and 1917 revolutions asВаршавянка (Varshavianka / Song of Warsaw), the chorus of which may be translated as ‘To the battle bloody, / Holy and right. / March, march forward, / The nation’s workers’.
Shostakovich, therefore, would have been familiar with the Russian version and, indeed, it is quoted by him in his film score The Youth of Maxim, Op. 41(i), composed in 1935, the year before Salute to Spain. Shostakovich later arranged it for mixed choir, soloists, and orchestra as part of the incidental music for Native Leningrad (or Motherland), Op. 63, the original score for which has not survived (Yuri Silantiev’s arrangement of the four (re-titled) numbers from Native Leningradare included in his oratorio My Native Country [My Dear Leningrad on the score], assembled from three of Shostakovich’s works). The Varshavianka tune also appears in Symphony No. 11 ‘The Year 1905’, Op. 103 and in the music for the film The Unforgettable Year 1919, Op. 89.
¡A las barricadas! was considered therefore to be a fitting and credible choice for this recording because of its place in the history of the Spanish Civil War, Shostakovich’s own use of the Varshavianka as detailed above, the ideological affinities between the Russian text and the version by Orobón, which exhorts the workers to overcome the (Fascist) enemy in the pursuit of freedom and, last but not least, the rousing alla marcia tempo of the music, even more contextually apposite when placed after Fanfare II. The arrangement for male chorus on this recording, by Mark Fitz-Gerald, is based on the version used in the film The Youth of Maxim.
Additional research into Alexander Afinogenov’s Salute to Spain, by Anastasia Belina, is gratefully acknowledged.
Symphonic Movement (1945, unfinished)
This recording presents, for the first time, a symphonic fragment of about seven minutes which was once envisaged as the first movement of a Symphony No. 9 but was subsequently entirely discarded. The eventual Symphony No. 9 was composed some six months later and has no connection with, or similarity to, the present work.
In December 2003 I was looking through some unidentified manuscripts in the Shostakovich Archive in Moscow when I discovered 24 pages in Shostakovich’s hand, of a hitherto unknown work scored for huge orchestra with quadruple wind and brass. The manuscript consists of 321 bars, of which the first 192 are in black ink, the remainder in blue. The movement is marked Allegro non troppo, in 4/4, and is in E flat major (as it happens, the same key as the published Symphony No. 9). We cannot tell how near to the end of the movement Shostakovich was when he broke off; in order necessarily to bring the piece to a close, Mark Fitz-Gerald has added just eight bars which continue the existing sequence to a final cadence.
How can we deduce anything about the dating or context of the work? At first, all I knew was that the manuscript had been loosely inserted into the autograph score of The Gamblers, which dates from the end of 1942 and the beginning of 1943, and the similarities of both scores (especially, the handwriting in both black and blue inks, and the paper) seemed to point to the probability of their proximity in time. So I began a search for unrealised symphonic projects by Shostakovich around this time, and in the diaries of Isaak Glikman [note 1] and E.P. Makarov [note 2], and also the book by David Rabinovich [note 3], I discovered references to a first version of the Ninth Symphony, significantly earlier than the one composed in July/August 1945 and published as Op. 70. Moreover, these references clearly indicated the date when Shostakovich began writing the work: 15th January 1945. But there was still no evidence that this piece, and the manuscript I had found, were one and the same.
Then a miracle occurred, of the kind about which scholars can usually only dream. It was always one of my most passionate dreams to find some sketches bearing this exact date, which would be the essential evidence to link the manuscript I had found with what we knew of the original Ninth Symphony. And amazingly, in the Glinka Museum of Musical Culture in Moscow I found a folder, which had apparently lain there for over 60 years unseen by scholars, containing more than 250 pages of Shostakovich’s unknown and unarranged autographs. And among the many sketches which had been presumed lost, there suddenly leapt up at me three pages with the music that by now was so familiar to me, together with the magic date 15 January 1945! I was now able to establish unequivocally that this full score fragment was indeed the unfinished first version of what might have become Symphony No. 9.
In a private conversation with Rabinovich in 1944, Shostakovich said that he had begun to think about a new symphony, a majestically monumental finale to the wartime trilogy which would comprise Symphonies 7 (‘Leningrad’), 8 and 9. “I would like to employ not only the whole orchestra”, he said, “but also a chorus and soloists—if only I could find a suitable text, and if I were not so afraid of inviting presumptuous analogies”. [note 4]
Those musicians who heard Shostakovich playing the beginning of this version of the Ninth Symphony, remember that it was “powerful, energetic and triumphant” [note 5], reflecting the general mood just prior to the victory over fascism and the end of the war. One of Shostakovich’s pupils, Makarov, remembers his starting it. “In the middle of January 1945 Dm. Dm. began to write the Ninth Symphony…On Tuesday, if I am not mistaken, it was 16th January, we studied with Dm. Dm. at his house. After he had looked over our exercises, we began to talk. I asked him, among other things, why almost all of his first movements of large works began in a slow tempo. Dm. Dm. did not want to, or could not, explain it, but said that that was just how it happened. “However”, he said, “my Second Sonata has a fast first movement, and the first movement of the new symphony, which I have just begun, is relatively fast—Allegro moderato.” It transpired that the symphony had been started just the previous day, and that the exposition had already been completed. But a week later we inquired how the symphony was progressing, and Shostakovich only said “I find it difficult to write. The writing itself takes a lot of time.” [note 6]
In May 1945 Glikman reported in his diary that Shostakovich was not entirely happy with his new symphony, and that its mere number, the Ninth, would evoke associations and comparisons from audiences with Beethoven’s Ninth. “I asked him to play what he had written. At first he declined due to the difficulty of playing such a complex piece at the piano, but eventually he sat down, took a few pages covered in pencil markings, and began to play a breathtakingly fast and exciting Allegro, a continuous stream of nervous, uneasy energy, grandiose in scale and in pathos. He played for about ten minutes. The music was strong; not one bar was banal or superfluous.” [note 7]
But by the end of June Shostakovich declared it to be “faulty” [note 8], and the work was abandoned. However, not all its musical ideas were discarded completely. The second theme, in particular, reappears in yet another unfinished piece, a Violin Sonata in G minor which Shostakovich began in June 1945, and when this work, too, was abandoned, the theme was again resurrected, eight years later, for the Tenth Symphony, Op. 93, where it reoccurs in very similar guise as the second theme of the first movement.
The world première of the Symphonic Movement was given on 20th November 2006 by the Russian State Academic Symphonic Capella, conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky, in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, Moscow as part of the festival dedicated to Shostakovich’s centenary.
Translated from the Russian by Anastasia Belina and adapted by Peter Bromley and Jonathan Del Mar with additional material supplied by the author
[note 1] Shostakovich archive, f. 4, r. 2, ed. khr. 1-10.
[note 2] E.P. Makarov. Dnevnik: vospominaniya o moyom uchitele Shostakoviche (Diary: memoirs about my teacher Shostakovich). Moscow, 1998.
[note 3] D. Rabinovich. Dmitry Shostakovich: composer. Moscow, 1959.
[note 4] Rabinovich, op. cit., p.96
[note 5] Ibid.
[note 6] Makarov, op. cit., p.22
[note 7] Shostakovich archive, f. 4, r. 2, ed. khr. 1, 1. 1 ob, 2, 2 ob
[note 8] Ibid.
A footnote on the Ninth Symphony draft: Amid the welter of counterpoint, recalling the first movement of the Leningrad Symphony and the finale of the Second Piano Trio in addition to those works cited by Olga Digonskaya, one leading theme consists of insistent repeated notes followed by a three-note descent, heard at its clearest between 4’35” and 5’43”. This idea was taken up by Shostakovich’s pupil Galina Ustvolskaya in her Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano of 1949, then used by Shostakovich again in his Fifth String Quartet (1952) and his much later song-cycle, the Suite on Verses by Michelangelo Buonarroti. It has been widely assumed that Shostakovich was thereby quoting and paying secret tribute to his pupil. It now seems rather that it was she who took the theme from him (unless, of course, it has a pre-history even earlier than the symphony draft).
Includes sung texts, also accessible at www.naxos.com/libretti/572138.htm.
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