Life Chronicles

At the beginning of August 1968, Shostakovich began composing Sonata for Violin and Piano in Repino. At the end of October, he finished the Sonata and wrote the dedication: ‘In honour of the 60th anniversary of David Fyodorovich Oistrakh.’ 3 and 4 May 1969, the premiere of the Sonata was held in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory as performed by David Oistrakh and Svyatoslav Richter. On 23 and 24 September 1969, the Sonata was performed for the first time in Leningrad.
At the end of May 1969, Shostakovich attended the concerts of the West Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Herbert von Karajan which was touring in Moscow. In one of the programmes, Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony was performed. On 30 September 1969, Shostakovich participated in a programme on Leningrad television dedicated to Ivan Ivanovich Sollertinsky.
On 21 June 1969, a rehearsalshow was arranged at 10 o’clock in the morning in the Maly Hall of the Conservatory in Moscow for the music community of the new Fourteenth Symphony as performed by the Moscow Chamber Orchestra and conducted by Rudolf Barshai, soloists Margarita Miroshnikova and Yevgeni Vladimirov. On 29 September, the premiere of the symphony was held in Leningrad in the hall of the Glinka Kapelle with soloists Galina Vishnevskaya and Yevgeni Vladimirov. On 1 October, the premiere performance was repeated. Margarita Miroshnikova and Yevgeni Vladimirov soloed.
On 6 October 1969, the Moscow premiere of the Fourteenth Symphony was held with soloists Galina Vishnevskaya and Mark Reshetin.

May 3rd and 4th - Premier of the Sonata for Violin and Piano (ор.134).
September 29th - Premiere of Symphony No. 14 (ор.135).
Production of “The Nose” (op. 15) in Germany.

February 1, 1969, Moscow

“I want to be able to clamber into a bus, a trolley-bus and a tram. I don’t want to freeze with fear as I step on the Metro escalator. I want to move easily on staircases. Modest wishes.
Lately I have been composing a lot. On the one hand - ‘an affliction like a disease’, and on the other, perhaps it is just the graphomania of old age. I am now writing an oratorio for soprano, bass and Barshai’s chamber orchestra using words by Garcia Lorca, Guillaume Apollinaire, Rainer Maria Rilke and Vilgelm Kyukhelbecker. The idea, I think, is an interesting one. One way or another this activity I find absorbing and entertaining.”

March 19, 1969, Moscow

“The selection of poems stems from the following circumstances: I had the idea that there are eternal themes. Among them - Love and Death.
To the question of Love I turned my attention, at least in the ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ to words by Sasha Chernyi. I have not dealt with questions of death. On the eve of my departure to hospital I listened to Mussorgsky’s ‘Songs and Dances of Death’ and the idea for treating death finally took shape.
I wouldn’t say that I resign myself to his phenomenon.
...I wrote it very fast. I was afraid that during my work on the Fourteenth Symphony something would happen to me, for example, that my right arm might cease functioning completely or that I would suddenly go blind, and so on. These thoughts tortured me a lot. Yet everything turned out all right. My arm still works more or less and my eyes can see...
The Fourteenth Symphony (that’s what I decided to call this opus) is, as I see it, a landmark composition. Everything that I have been writing over a great number of years prior to this has been a preparation for this composition. It’s possible, though, that I am mistaken.”

April 28, 1969, Zhukovka

“...I’m in a state of great anxiety before the premiere. An anxious man is a selfish man and his company can be unpleasant for those who have to deal with him. <...>
I am surprised at my anxiety. After all, in my life-time I have experienced many premieres. There have been good ones and bad ones. Oistrakh and Richter play very well. Maybe so well that there is no need to be anxious.”

August 18, 1969, Baikal

“I am bereft of literary talent and therefore I shall not be able to describe to you adequately the incredible beauty of Baikal, which Irina and I have been lucky enough to see. We are staying in a very good and comfortable sanatorium.
<...> On September 21st and 22nd D. Oistrakh and S. Richter are planning to play my Sonata in Leningrad. Then on the 25th and 26th in the hall of the Capella Barshai is planning to perform my Fourteenth Symphony.”

November 27, 1969, Moscow

“I am apparently suffering from a children’s disease. It is called poliomyelitis. It is very rare for people of my age. I did not suffer from it as a child. Therefore I recall Dostoyevsky. ‘Accept this, proud man!’”

Rudolf Barshai:

“I received a telegram ‘Ring urgently’ - such an agitated telegram. I rang him. He said:’ Do you have some means of transport, could you come to me straightaway?’ I came. He played the Fourteenth Symphony, with a score for all the instruments already.
He was present at all the rehearsals. He didn’t miss a single one - he always sat behind me. Once, at a rehearsal of the second part, - it is such a dynamic, resonant one, the low basses all in unison and all the violins in unison - suddenly I feel someone banging me on my left shoulder, I turned round - Shostakovich. He was sitting behind me and said:’ God help me, I had never thought that it would sound so stunning, please go on.”
He was a very spontaneous, incredibly spontaneous person, when he was in a good mood; when he liked something in his music, he got excited like a child.”