Scores to the symphonies of Dmitri Shostakovich, notes
Volume Two of Dmitry Shostakovich's Collected Works comprises the scores of his symphonies Nos. 3 and 4.
Symphony No. 3, "May First" in E-flat Major, Op. 20, for orchestra and chorus was composed in 1929 while Dmitry Shostakovich was a post-graduate student at the Leningrad Conservatoire. Originally the composer called it "A May Symphony", and this subtitle is preserved in his transcription of the work for solo piano, while in the definitive version of the full score the wording is somewhat different.
In this symphony Shostakovich continued his searchings for the ways and means of giving a direct reflection to contemporary life in programmatic major instrumental compositions, begun in his First Piano Sonata (originally entitled "The October") and Second Symphony ("Dedication to October"). "Life has shown", he wrote later, "how much our mass audiences appreciate programmatic symphonic music. We composers have a good deal to do to satisfy the listeners' demands in this respect. We are not doing enough in this important and entrancing sphere, with its wealth of creative potentialities. I am positive that work in programme music can considerably enrich the creative ideas of a talented composer and promote his professional skill. The musical embodiment of a vivid and meaningful programme invariably makes him exercise his imagination and inventiveness to the full".1 The programme of the "May First" Symphony determined its peculiar structure: according to Vissarion Shebalin, "after starting work on this symphony Dmitry Dmitriyevich once remarked that 'it would be interesting to write a symphony in which no theme is ever repeated'."
Like his Second, Shostakovich's Third Symphony is a one-movement work
with a closing choral section. In comparing the two symphonies the composer
wrote in 1929: "I handed in my 'May First' Symphony on the completion
of the course [of post-graduate studies—Ed.], a work essentially differing
from the 'Dedication to October'. Whereas in the 'Dedication' the main
content is struggle, the 'May First' expresses the festive spirit of peaceful
construction, if I may put it that way. To make the main idea clearer
for the listeners, I introduced a chorus to words by the poet Kirsanov
at the end".
Shortly after completing his Third Symphony Shostakovich, in assessing the work accomplished during those years, defined it as the most important of his compositions of the late twenties—early thirties. This is what he wrote: "The only work of mine that can, in my opinion, lay claim to 'taking its place' in the development of Soviet musical culture is my 'May First' Symphony, although, of course, it is not free from certain drawbacks".
Whenever Shostakovich mentioned this work in later times, he always emphasised close ties of its contents with contemporary life. Thus in 1940 he said: "I have always liked working on music reflecting our epoch, the thoughts and feelings of the Soviet man. In this way came into being my subsequent [coming after the First Symphony—Ed] works—the 'Dedication to October' with a concluding chorus, the 'May First' Symphony, and incidental music to the films New Babylon, Alone, The Counterplan, Golden Mountains and the Maxim trilogy". As he was striking the balance of his life's work on the eve of his 50th birthday in 1956, Shostakovich once more stated that the symphonies under discussion, like his First Symphony, "were attempts at reflecting reality, sincere efforts to give reflection to contemporary life".
Shostakovich's Third Symphony was first performed by the State A Cappella Choir and the Leningrad Philarmonic Orchestra at the Moscow-Narva Palace of Culture (today Gorky Palace of Culture), Leningrad, on January 21 (the anniversary of Lenin's death), 1930. On January 22, the symphony was performed at a special concert for the city's youth and Komsomol members, given in the Large Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic.
The score and parts of Symphony No. 3 were published by the Muzgiz in
1932. The autograph score is preserved at the Central State Archives of
Literature and Art of the USSR (fond 2048, descriptive list 1. bit of
storage No. 3).
The present edition is based on the copy of the score bearing the composer's inscription: "Ready for print. 23.4.72. D. Shostakovich", which is preserved at the Library of the USSR Music Fund (No. 6222).
All patent errors have been corrected without comment; important discrepancies are discussed in the notes at the end of the volume.
Symphony No. 4 in С minor, Op. 43, was completed in 1936. The idea of this work came to the composer long before he was in a position to concentrate on its score. In November 1934 Shostakovich already mentioned the existence of the incomplete first movement of the symphony: "Several works have been started, among them a piece of the first movement of my Fourth Symphony, which I have put aside for the time being", he wrote in the article "The Joy of Knowledge".
Early in 1935 Shostakovich repeatedly stated his intention to compose
a new symphony. Thus in January 1935 he said: "There are many things
I must do. I intend to write a symphony. I intend to write a set of four
operas. I hope that with the assistance of community, in the first place,
the Leningrad Union of Soviet Composers, I shall be able to concentrate
on my main task—work on the opera (the second of the set) and on my Fourth
Symphony".8 Unlike its predecessors, the Fourth Symphony was to be
"pure", non-programmatic, music. The composer attached particular
importance to it as he meant this work to be the realisation of his principles
of symphonism. At that period he made numerous statements, oral and in
the press, concerning such burning problems of artistic skill and world-outlook
as originality and feeble imitation, simplicity and simplification in
the musical language, contemporary composition techniques, etc., and took
part in the discussion of Soviet symphony, sponsored by the Union of Soviet
Composers in Moscow. In the spring of 1935 Shostakovich expressed his
views on some problems of the musical art in connection with his conception
of the Fourth Symphony: "Just now I am starting on my Fourth Symphony,
my composer's credo as it were. What are the tasks I am to solve at present?
"The main task is to find my own musical idiom, one that is simple and expressive. Striving for simplicity is sometimes understood somewhat superficially: as often as not simplicity becomes feeble imitation. But to express oneself in a simple way does not mean using the language that was in use 50 or a hundred years ago. That, however, is exactly the mistake made by many composers who are afraid of being classed among formalists. Both formalism and eclecticism are the worst enemies of Soviet musical culture. Only if he succeeds in steering clear of these Scylla and Charybdes can a Soviet composer become a true poet of our great epoch".
The composer returned to the score of his Fourth Symphony "put aside
for the time being" only in the autumn of 1935 and completed it in
May 1936. Its premiere by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra was scheduled
for that same year, but after a few rehearsals Shostakovich withdrew it
The Fourth Symphony had its first performance by the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra at the Large Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire on December 30, 1961. Its score was published by the Soviet Composer in 1962.
The whereabouts of the autograph score are not know; fragments of the first and third movements are preserved at the Central State Archives of Literature and Art of the USSR (fond 2048, descriptive list 1, bit of storage No. 4).
The present edition is based on the score put out by the State Publishers Music in 1976.