Symphony No. 12 “The Year 1917”
Leningrad Philharmonic Bolshoi Hall; Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, Yevgeni Mravinsky
Moscow, Sovetskii kompozitor, 1961
Dmitri Shostakovich’s Archive, rec. gr. 1, section 1, f. 46, 48, 49
Dedication: “To the Memory of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin”.
“Writing a symphony dedicated to the memory of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin has been a cherished dream of mine for years. The idea for this symphony first came to me back in 1924, when the whole people was deep in mourning.”
“I was a witness to the events of the October Revolution. I was among those who heard Lenin speak on the square in front of the Finnish Station on the day he arrived back in Petrograd. Although I was very young at the time, the event is imprinted on my mind for ever. The memories of those unforgettable days, are, of course, helping me in my work on the symphony.”
Symphony No. 12 “The Year 1917”
Shostakovich most likely composed the Twelfth Symphony in D minor, Op. 112, subtitled ‘The year 1917’, between June 1960 and August 1961, dedicating it to the memory of Vladimir Ilyich lenin. The author’s arrangement of the symphony for piano in four hands is not dated.
The Twelfth Symphony was first performed in the author’s arrangement for piano four hands on 8 September 1961 at the RSFSR Union of Composers by composers Boris Tchaikovsky and Mieczysław (Moisey) Weinberg. Public premieres of the symphony were held on the evening of 1 October of the same year both in Kuibyshev (the Symphony Orchestra of the Kuibyshev Philharmonic, conductor Abram Stasevich) and in Leningrad (Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Yevgeny Mravinsky). On 14 October, the symphony was first performed in Moscow (at the Metrostroy Palace of Culture, USSR State Symphony Orchestra, conductor Konstantin Ivanov) and Gorky (Symphony Orchestra of the Gorky Philharmonic, conductor Izrail Gusman). On 15 and 17 October, the State Orchestra conducted by Konstantin Ivanov performed the symphony in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. These performances were scheduled to coincide with the opening of the 22nd CPSU Congress (17-31 October). The same year, the Melodiya Company made the first studio recording of the symphony with the Leningrad Orchestra conducted by Yevgeny Mravinsky. The foreign premiere of the symphony was held on 4 September 1962 at the Edinburgh Festival devoted mainly to Shostakovich’s oeuvre (the Philharmonia Orchestra, conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky).
In contrast to most of Shostakovich’s previous symphonies, the Twelfth did not arouse any particular interest in the West.
The Lenin Symphony, which is sustained in the spirit of the orthodox Soviet aesthetics of the 1930s-1950s, acquired the reputation of one of the least interesting and least original of Shostakovich’s works.
During Shostakovich’s lifetime, the symphony was performed at least once as a piece of incidental music: along with Georgian folk songs and excerpts from Modest Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and from Sergey Prokofiev’s works, it served as the basis for a ballet by famous French choreographer Roland Petit ‘Light Up the Stars!’ (‘Allumez les étoiles!’) with a libretto based on the poetry of Vladimir Mayakovsky ‘Listen!’.
- Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, Yevgeni Mravinsky. 1961 // MK D09395-6 (mono) and C0245-6, 1962
- Philharmonia Orchestra, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky. 1962 // BBC Radio Classics 15656 91832, 1996
- BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sir Adrian Boult. 1962 // The Classical Society CSCD 125, 1991
- Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Kirill Kondrashin. 1972 // Melodiya C04713-4, 1975
- Concertgebouw Orchestra, Bernard Haitink. 1982 // Decca SXDL 7577, 1983
- USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra, G. Rozhdestvensky. 1983 // Melodiya A10 00073 009, 1985
- Gothenberg Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi. 1990 // Deutsche Grammophon 431 688-2GH, 1991
- Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Ashkenazy. 1992 // Decca 436 760-2, 1994
- London Symphony Orchestra, Mstislav Rostropovich. 1995 // Teldec 0630-17046-2, 1997
- Russian State Symphony Orchestra, Valeri Polyansky. 1996 // Chandos CHAN 9585, 1998
- Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Mariss Jansons. 2004 // EMI Classics 3 35994-2, 2005
- Prague Symphony Orchestra, Maksim Shostakovich. 2006 // Supraphon SU 38902, 2006
- Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra. Alexander Sladkovsky. 2017 // Melodiya. MEL CD 1002470, 2017 (13 CDs)