Symphony No.14 for soprano, bass and chamber orchestra to words
by F. Garcia Lorca, G. Apollinaire, V. Kyuchelbecker and R. M. Rilke. G Minor.
De profundis; Adagio
The Suicide; Adagio
On Watch; Allegretto
Madam, look!; Adagio
In Sante Prison; Adagio
The Zaporozhian Cossacks’ Reply to the Sultan of Constantinople; Allegro
O Delvig, Delvig!; Andante
The Death of the Poet; Largo
The piano score was completed on February 16, 1969 and the whole score on March 2nd of the same year.
Dedication: “To Benjamin Britten”
Premiere: September 29, 1969. Leningrad, Hall of the Glinka Academic Capella. Moscow Chamber Orchestra conducted by R. Barshai. Soloists: G. Vishnevskaya and Y. Vladimirov.
October 6, 1969. Moscow. Great Hall of the Conservatoire.
Performance abroad: 1970, Great Britain. Conducted by Benjamin Britten.
January 6, 1971. Philadelphia. Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. Conductor E. Ormandy.
First Edition: Score, “Muzyka” Publishers, Moscow, 1971.
Manuscripts: The hand-written score is in the archive of the composer’s family.
“I orchestrated Mussorgsky’s vocal cycle ‘Songs and Dances of Death’ - it is a great work. I always revered it and still do so. Then I thought to myself, that perhaps its only shortcoming is.... its brevity: in the whole cycle there are only four pieces. Then I thought, perhaps I could be bold enough to try and continue it. But at the time I simply didn’t know how to go about it. Now I have returned to the idea again, after listening to a large number of works of great Russian and foreign classical music. I was struck by the great wisdom and artistic power with which the ‘eternal themes’ of love, life and death are presented in them, although I myself use a different approach to the themes in my symphony.
I want the audience to go home after listening to the symphony with the thought: ‘Life is wonderful’.”
(D. Shostakovich. “Preface to the Premiere”, “Pravda” - April 25, 1969)
“When we played it I had the feeling that it was flying by, this large work, flying by in a single minute. I felt quite unaware of how much time was passing: on each occasion I felt as if I was under some kind of hypnosis.
<...> It is a symphony about death. Shostakovich himself said, as we know, that Mussorgsky’s work ‘Songs and Dances of Death’ had made a big impression on him and that he wanted somehow to continue this theme, but, as he pointed out, not because he had a gloomy view of all this and could see no way out. He said: ’I am protesting against it, protesting that this should not be. That is why I composed this work’. The impact of the music is such that you cannot say the composition is a religious one. Although other requiems are bound up with celestial thoughts, this work is very much of our earth, a very human one. He depicted in it various aspects of the tragic side of human life. I would have said that this is a work which should not be taken on tour - when it would have to be played every day or every other day - because of the impact it has on the performers themselves.”
(From an interview given to O. Dvornichenko. Published for the first time)
“Some time in the spring of 1969 I had a call from Shostakovich with an invitation to come to his home and hear a new work. R. Barshai and R. Bunin had also been asked round. Shostakovich showed us his Fourteenth Symphony.
It was difficult for him to play because of the pain in his hands. At the same time he was singing the vocal part in a quiet, almost child-like voice. Even then several lyrical moments (of ‘The Suicide’, ‘The Death of the Poet’, ‘O Delvig, Delvig!’) made a tremendous impression on me. We could feel that this work was particularly dear to Shostakovich. When it was over and we were drinking tea, he said in passing that he had not been able to sleep for a few nights after handing over the score to the copier. ‘I kept trying to work out whether I could piece it together from memory, if the original were to get lost’.”
(Manuscript. Published for the first time)