Symphony No.8. C Minor.
1. Adagio. Allegro non troppo
3. Allegro non troppo
5. Allegretto (no breaks between Parts 3,4 and 5).
Dedication: “To Yevgenii Aleksandrovich Mravinsky”.
Premiere: November 4, 1943. Moscow - Great Hall of the Conservatoire, State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR. Conductor Y. Mravinsky.
Premieres abroad: April 2, 1944. New York. Symphony Orchestra of the New York Philharmonia. Conductor A. Rodzinski.
April 21, 1944. Boston. Boston Symphony Orchestra, Conductor S. Koussevitzky.
May 26, 1944. Mexico City. Conductor K. Chavez.
July 23, 1944. London. BBC Symphony Orchestra. Conductor Henry Wood.
February 28, 1946. Paris. Conductor R. Désormière.
Manuscript: Hand-written score in Russian State Archive for Literature and Art (Stack 2048; Inv.1, Items 9 and 10).
First Edition: “Muzgiz” Publishers, Moscow, 1946.
“A few days ago I completed work on my new Eighth Symphony. I wrote it very fast - in just over two months. When I finished my Seventh Symphony I was planning to write an opera and a ballet and started work on a heroic oratorio about the defenders of Moscow but then I decided to postpone work on the oratorio and embarked upon the Eighth Symphony.
<...> it has no specific subject matter. It reflects my thoughts and anxieties...There are many inner conflicts in the Eighth Symphony - both tragic and dramatic ones. Yet, all in all it is an optimistic life-affirming work. <...>
The philosophical idea underlying my new work I can express very concisely, in a me re three words. ‘Life is beautiful’. Everything dark and gloomy will perish and disappear and Beauty will triumph”.
(“Symphony No.8: A Conversation with the Composer D. Shostakovich” “Literatura i iskusstvo’ - September 18, 1943)
“Shostakovich, if one can express it this way, has perfect orchestral pitch. He hears the orchestra as a whole and each instrument separately - in his mind and also while they are playing.
I remember the following incident. We were rehearsing the Eighth Symphony.
In Part I, not long before the main climax, there is an episode where the cor anglais climbs quite high into its second octave. The tune is then taken up by oboes and cellos but can hardly be made out against the background of the rest of the orchestra. Bearing this in mind, at rehearsal the musician played his part an octave lower, so as to spare his lips for the long and important solo, which follows immediately after the climax. To pick out the cor anglais in the orchestra’s flood of sound and to discover the little trick of the cor anglais player was something almost impossible. I must confess, I myself did not notice it, but suddenly Shostakovich’s voice rang out from the stalls behind
me: ‘Why is the cor anglais playing an octave lower?’ We were all thunderstruck. The orchestra stopped playing and after a moment’s silence applause broke out.”
(Y. Mravinsky, “Thirty Years with the Music of Shostakovich”)