Notes for voice and piano to the symphonies of Dmitri Shostakovich
Volume nine of Dmitry Shostakovich's Collected Works comprises the vocal
scores of his Thirteenth and Fourteenth symphonies and of the choral fragments
from his Second and Third symphonies. The full scores of these works appear
in volumes seven, eight, one and two.
As a general rule, the composer arranged his symphonies for solo piano, piano duet or for two pianos after completing them in full score. Thus the arrangements were the final stages of his composition process. In some instances, for example, his Tenth Symphony, Dmitry Shostakovich introduced certain changes into his piano reductions (for the most part concerning the tempi).
Out of the extant vocal scores of Shostakovich's symphonies, made by the composer himself,2 only those are included in the present edition of his Collected Works that are necessary for practical work with solo singers and choristers in preparing the symphonies for performance.
Symphony No. 13 for bass solo, bass choir and orchestra in B-flat minor, Op. 113, was written in 1962 to verses by Yevgeni Yevtushenko. Its five movements are as follows: 1. "Babi Yar", 2. "Humour", 3. "In the Shop", 4. "Fears", 5. "A Career".
In explaining the general idea of his symphony the composer said: "I
have always been interested in the social behaviour of man the citizen,
I have thought about it a lot. In my Thirteenth Symphony I pose the problem
of civic, repeat civic, morality."3
Dmitry Shostakovich conceived the idea of writing this work upon reading Yevgeni Yevtushenko's poem Babi Yar in Literaturnaya Gazeta of September 19, 1961. Originally he intended to write a one-movement symphonic poem and completed it in vocal score on March 27 (we learn from the last page of the manuscript) and in full score, on April 21, 1962. He entered this work in his list of compositions as "Babi Yar, symphonic poem for solo bass, bass choir and orchestra, Op. 113." Subsequently, however, the idea developed further and the composer wrote shortly before the appearance of this symphony: "It often happens that in the process of writing the form, the choice of expressive media and the very genre of a work undergo a change."
So in July 1962 Shostakovich wrote four more movements, making of his
symphonic poem a symphony in five movements, with "Babi Yar"
as the opening one. For these additional movements he chose poems from
Yevgeni Yevtushenko's collection A Wave of the Hand, Moscow, 1962; the
poem "Fears" (for the fourth movement) was written by Yevtushenko
at the composer's request.5 The dates in the manuscript show that the
second movement, "Humour", was written on July 5, the third,
"In the Shop", on July 9, the fourth, "Fears", on
July 16 and the fifth, "A Career", on July 20.
Dmitry Shostakovich's Thirteenth Symphony was first performed by the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, the bass group of the Russian A Cappella Choir and the men's chorus of the Gnesin Musical-Pedagogic Institute at the Large Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire on December 18, 1962. Duration: approx. 60 mins. The vocal score is published here for the first time on the basis of the autograph preserved at the Shostakovich family archives.
Symphony No. 14 for soprano, bass and chamber orchestra, Op. 135, was written in 1969 to words by F. Garcia Lorca, G. Apollinaire, W. Kuchelbecker and R. M. Rilke. It consists of eleven sections: I. De profundis; II. Malaguena; III. Lorelei; IV. The Suicide; V. On Watch; VI. Madam, look!; VII. At the Sante Jail; VIII. The Zaporozhye Cossacks' Reply to the Sultan of Constantinople; IX. O Delvig, Delvig! X. The Death of the Poet; XI. Conclusion.
The symphony was completed in vocal score on February 16, 1969, and in
full score, on March 2 of that year. The composer worked on the vocal
score while he was staying at a Moscow hospital, but he completed the
full score at home. Shortly before its first performance Shostakovich
said that the writing of his Fourteenth Symphony "proceeded at a
fairly rapid pace" and explained this by the fact that "the
idea of the new work had long been ripening in my mind."6 Remarking
that "the choice of the lyrics may seem somewhat strange," the
composer pointed out that "the music unifies them in four symphonic
In discussing the authors of the words Shostakovich paid particular attention to Wilhelm Kuchelbecker, "a Russian poet, one of the Decembrists. His work, unfortunately, is little known today. I chanced upon a book of his poems and was struck by the astonishing depth and beauty of his poetry."
Shostakovich introduced changes into some of the poetic texts, which was called forth by the specifics of the musical interpretation of the words and the demands of the vocal enunciation of poetry. All such changes are discussed in the notes at the end of the volume.
The idea of the symphony came to Shostakovich, according to his own words,
in 1962 under the influence of Mussorgsky. "I was orchestrating Mussorgsky's
Songs and Dances of Death, that great work which I admire very much indeed,
and I thought that its only shortcoming was its brevity—a mere four items
"So I asked myself why shouldn't I try and continue in the same strain. Yet at the time I simply did not know how to set about it. Now, after listening anew to a whole series of great classical works, Russian and foreign, I have taken up the idea once more.
"I was greatly impressed by the profound wisdom and artistic insight with which the 'eternal' subjects of love, life and death are treated in these works. In my symphony, however, I approach them in my own way.
"I feel deeply the words of Nikolai Ostrovsky who said: 'Life is man's dearest possession. It is given him only once and he should live so as not to experience acute pain at the thought of the years wasted aimlessly or feel searing shame for his petty and inglorious past, but be able to say, at the moment of death, that he has given all his life and energies to the noblest cause in the world—to fight for the liberation of humanity'.
"I want the listeners reflecting upon my new symphony to recall
these words, to realise that they must lead pure and fruitful lives for
the glory of their Motherland, their people and the most progressive ideas
motivating our socialist society. That is what I was thinking about as
I wrote my new work.
"I want my listeners, as they leave the hall after hearing my symphony, to think that life is truly beautiful."
The composer emphasised that in treating the "eternal" problems he opposed the attitude to death as a release from all earthly sorrows and a transition to a better world, which had been characteristic of art in the past. In his opening talk before the dress rehearsal of his symphony at the Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire on June 21, 1969, Shostakovich said: "Take for example the death of Boris Godunov: when Boris dies the music acquires a peculiar glow. Then let us recall Verdi's Otello. When the tragedy is over and both Desdemona and Othello perish, the music again becomes permeated with supreme calm. Also in A/da, a calm and exalted music sheds its light upon the tragic end of its heroes. A similar approach is shown by our contemporaries, for instance, that outstanding English composer Benjamin Britten in his War Requiem.
"I think, however, that in my symphony I follow in the footsteps
of the great Russian composer Mussorgsky. His cycle Songs and Dances of
Death—well, perhaps not the cycle as a whole but at any rate the 'Field-Marshal
Death' — is an impassioned protest against death, a reminder to the living
that they should live honestly, conscientiously, nobly, never committing
a base act. This is very important, for—alas! — much time will pass before
the scientists have succeeded in ensuring immortality. Death is in store
for all of us, and I, for one, do not see anything good in the end of
Subsequently Shostakovich discussed his own approach to this subject more than once, noting that despite its unusual conception his Fourteenth Symphony was perfectly natural in the general context of his work. "I do not feel that this symphony differes materially from my other works. The new element in it is my approach to the theme of death. In this music I express my protest at death."
Symphony No. 14 was first performed by the Moscow Chamber Orchestra at the Hall of the Academic Glinka Chorus in Leningrad on September 29, 1969. In Moscow it was first performed at the Large Hall of the Conservatoire on October 6, 1969. Before these official premieres under the auspices of the Philharmonic Societies the symphony was performed at a dress rehearsal in the Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire on June 21, 1969. Duration: approx. 42 mins.
The vocal score of Dmitry Shostakovich's Fourteenth Symphony is published here for the first time from the autograph preserved at the Shostakovich family archives.
Symphony No. 2, "Dedication to October",
with concluding chorus to words by A. Bezymensky, Op. 14, was written
Shostakovich started work on the symphony upon receiving, at the end of March 1927, a commission from the Propaganda Department of the Gosizdat Music Section to write a symphonic work for the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution.12 At first Dmitry Shostakovich had no intention of composing a symphony. In a letter to L. Shulgin, Chief of the Propaganda Department, he wrote: "I am considering what I shall call my new work. I think 'symphonic poem' will about meet the case."13 When the composition was ready, Dmitry Shostakovich defined it as "Symphonic Dedication", a subtitle under which the work was performed and published for the first time. In his letter referred to above Shostakovich wrote: "The work progresses well. I spend much time on it. The music will last 12 mins., and the performance as a whole from 181/2 to 20 mins. Just now I have started on the most difficult section—the entry of the chorus, and if you remember Bezymensky's words, you'll see that they don't lend themselves to musical interpretation easily."
Dmitry Shostakovich discussed the content of this work and the composition
problems encountered in it in his post-graduate student's reports written
at the end of the twenties. He wrote: "In my October I wanted to
express the idea of struggle and victory. In the orchestration I used
a system of ultra-polyphony (27 simultaneously developed lines), which
is strikingly dynamic."15 "This ultra-polyphony blends to create
a polyphonic timbre. The whole work is largely polyphonic, I.use here
canon and fugue. The chorus is diatonic. The work is conceived as dialectically
The symphony was completed in the summer of 1927 and in the early autumn Dmitry Shostakovich, then at a health resort in Detskoye Selo, was correcting its proofs. That same year the composer received for it First Prize at the Leningrad Philharmonic competition for symphonic works to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution.
The premiere of Shostakovich's Second Symphony was given during the anniversary
celebrations. The rehearsals started at the end of October and the composer
attended them. He wrote to Shulgin on November 7, 1927: "There were
six rehearsals in all, the first just a run-through. I was present at
all but this one and gave instructions to Malko on various points. The
chorus is good."17 He further informed Shulgin that he had sent detailed
instructions to Konstantin Sarajev who was to conduct the symphony's Moscow
premiere. "If, after the words 'O Lenin' he does not accelerate the
tempo and does not adhere in the concluding choral declamation to the
rhythm and tempo specified in the score, the work will be a failure."18
The composer's observations after the performance of this symphony show that he was greatly concerned with the reactions of mass audiences. "The reception accorded my October by the workers' audience has convinced me of the correctness of the road I have chosen. When I compose I always try to make my music accessible and understandable to mass audiences, for only such audiences are real lovers of music, because music is one of the essentially mass arts."
Dmitry Shostakovich's Second Symphony was first performed during the
anniversary celebrations at the concert for Leningrad Teachers' Union
in the Large Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic on November 5, 1927. The
performers were the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra and A Cappella Choir.
On November 6 the concert was repeated for the city's scientists. The
symphony's Moscow premiere took place at the first symphonic assembly
of the Association of Contemporary Music in the Hall of Columns of the
Trade Unions House on December 4, 1927.
Nothing is known about the composer's piano score of his Second Symphony. The vocal score of its choral fragment, published here for the first time, is by Yu. Olenev.
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 major programmatic 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."20 The programme of the "May First" Symphony determined its peculiar structure: according to Vissarion Shebalin, "after starting work on his 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 content 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."24 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
Shostakovich's Third Symphony was first performed by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra and A Cappella Choir 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 at the Large Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic.
The vocal score of the Third Symphony's choral fragment is published here for the first time on the basis of the composer's reduction preserved at the Central State Archives of Literature and Art of the USSR, fond 2048, descriptive list 1, bit of storage No. 3.
The vocal scores of the symphonies in this volume have been collated with the autograph vocal scores and the autograph and published full scores. The numerous tempo, metronome and dynamics markings lacking in the autograph piano reductions have been borrowed from published scores and are given in square brackets. All patent errors encountered in the MSS and published sources have been corrected without comment. Important discrepancies are discussed in the notes at the end of the volume.