Symphony has a chequered history. Written
just after Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk
District and with music in similar
vein, it too had to be withdrawn. Unlike
the opera, which had attracted bad press
and the attention of Stalin, the symphony
had only reached the rehearsal stage.
The orchestral score then disappeared
and the première had to wait
a quarter of a century and until several
years had elapsed after the death of
Stalin. At the time of its composition
Shostakovich made a "straight"
arrangement of the Fourth Symphony for
two pianos. He performed it privately
in 1945 with fellow composer Vainberg
and subsequently managed to publish
the score, circulation of which was
then banned. In 1960 the young composer
Tischenko did perform it in public with
Dmitriev and the orchestral parts resurfaced
soon afterwards. Finally, in the following
year, the work was heard as the composer
originally intended. The two-piano arrangement
was eventually republished in 2000.
Several points arise
from the history of this work: Why did
the composer make the transcription?
Would the work perhaps have been lost
for ever without it? Have there been
any performances of the arrangement
other than the ones mentioned above?
Certainly the work has not been recorded
before and until this disc arrived there
must be few people around who have heard
it in this form. Any thoughts on these
points or previous experience of hearing
the two-piano arrangement would be welcome
on the MusicWeb Bulletin Board.
The Fourth Symphony
has a symmetrical three movements with
a fairly short middle movement sandwiched
between two much larger structures.
Mahler is the most obvious influence
but there is a level of violence in
the opening movement that is comparable
with Prokofiev’s Second Symphony – a
work which was written about ten years
earlier. There is also much that is
characteristic of the composer – for
example irony and pathos. It is not
a comfortable ride but is increasingly
recognized as being one of the composer’s
In writing the previous
paragraph, the orchestral version was
in my mind. Of course, all that also
applies to the piano version but listening
in this form is quite a different experience.
There is greater clarity of purpose
and the musical sense of the work is
easier to appreciate. The main price
to pay is some loss of the visceral
element but Hayroudinoff and Stone still
create plenty of excitement at the climaxes.
Listening to the work in this form is
a good way of revamping enthusiasm for
it. Prepare to be blown away when you
next put the orchestral version on.
A high level of commitment
and great team work from Hayroudinoff
and Stone are evident throughout their
performance. They adopt relatively fast
tempi in the outer movements (two orchestral
versions I know take 62 and 66 minutes)
but there is never a sense of hurry.
Despite the technical challenges, the
emotional content of the work is all
there. The pianists are backed up by
a first-rate recording. This is not
one of those two-piano recordings for
which one might wonder whether a stool
was being shared – the aural image is
just right. Presentation is excellent
too with an authoritative essay by Eric
An unqualified success
- this will be compulsory and compulsive
listening for admirers of DSCH.
Patrick C Waller
western première of this work
will be given by these artists on 26
June 2005 in Cambridge, UK, see: http://www.dschjournal.com/events/dsevents.htm#opus43a.
Further details will presumably appear
on the UK Shostakovich Society website
nearer the time, see: http://www.shostakovich-uk.com/Forthcoming.html.