Symphony No. 13
Moscow Conservatory Bolshoi Hall; Vitali Gromadsky (bass), Republican State and Gnessin Institute Choirs (basses only), Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Kirill Kondrashin
Muzyka, Leningrad, 1967
Dmitri Shostakovich’s Archive, rec. gr. 1, section 1, f. 56 (piano score); 58, 59, 61 (sketches)
Premiere: December 18, 1962. Moscow. Great Hall of the Conservatoire. Symphony Orchestra of the Moscow State Philharmonia. Bass choir of the Republican Russian Capella Choir and Male Choir of the Gnesin State Music Institute. Conductor K. Kondrashin. Soloist A. Gromadsky.
Premiere abroad: 1970. Philadelphia. Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. Conductor E. Ormandy.
First Edition: Score, “Sovietskii kompozitor” Publishers, Moscow, 1971. During preparation of this score for publication Yevtushenko introduced changes to the text.
“The public behaviour of the individual citizen has always attracted me and given me food for thought. In the Thirteenth Symphony I focused on the question of civic, specifically civic, morality. “
“I was struck by the first premiere I attended, this is the premiere of the 13th symphony. I was struck by the fact that it seemed to me that the composer had finished the composition - and then sheer pleasure, rehearsals, premieres, interviews, success, congratulations and so on. It turned out that all this is not so, it was a very difficult and nervous premiere.
On the eve of the premiere, here was Khrushchev’s famous meeting with the intelligentsia after visiting the exhibition in the Manege. Dmitry Dmitrievich came home from this meeting very excited, very late. The next morning, when there was supposed to be a dress rehearsal, Isaac Nechitailo, who was supposed to sing a solo part, was suddenly taken at the Bolshoi Theater. A choir and an orchestra came, but there wasn’t a soloist - we went for another performer, who, just in case, was given by the philharmonic. He was waited two hours, and he came and sang, but there were people from the Central Committee department at the rehearsal and at intermission they said that Dmitry Dmitrievich was invited to the Central Committee. And although they said that there would be a premiere, Dmitry Dmitrievich was very nervous. And it’s a strange thing when the next performance was in Minsk - when we arrived there - the same Belarusian meeting took place there, the same hype, it was all very nervous. They called Yevtushenko to the Central Committee, and insisted that he redo the text, saying that not only Jews were in Babi Yar, but also Russians and Ukrainians, otherwise this symphony would not be performed. And he redid it - it was done. But Dmitry Dmitrievich did not correct the text in the manuscript.
And the background of this premiere is this: Dmitry Dmitrievich first proposed this performance to Mravinsky, who said neither yes nor no, and went on tour, and it became clear that he would not play. And the soloist was offered to sing to Gmyra, who with great doubt took these notes and went to consult with the Central Committee of Ukraine, where he was told that he, of course, could sing, but in Ukraine this symphony would not be performed. Then it was proposed to Vedernikov, who also refused - in general, this is a very nervous story.”
Symphony No. 13
The Thirteenth Symphony was written in 1962. A poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, a young, but already very well-known poet at that time, called ‘Babi Yar’ served as the stimulus for beginning work on the symphony.
The rough draft was finished on 23 March 1962, the piano score on 27 March, and the orchestral score on 21 April, but by this time the idea for the composition had expanded. The composer wanted to put a few more of Yevtushenko’s poems to music, in addition to ‘Babi Yar’. According to the dates in the author’s manuscript of the score, the four new movements of the symphony were finished in a short time: 5 July—‘Humour’, 9 July—‘In the Shop’, 16 July—‘Fears’ and 20 July—‘A Career’.
On 3 August, Shostakovich wrote to Glikman that he was working on the symphony’s piano arrangement in four hands. Then the piano score for singing with the piano was written. On 13 August 1962, three days before he left for the Edinburgh Festival, the composer let Levon Tadevosovich Atovmian know, ‘I have finished the 13th Symphony’,meaning, apparently, he had completed the entire work, including the four-hand arrangement and the piano score.
Nevertheless, in the Soviet Union, the publication of ‘Babi Yar’ immediately gave rise to severe criticism of Yevtushenko. Under these conditions, the performance of the Thirteenth Symphony became knowingly problematic. Nevertheless, Shostakovich enthusiastically made preparations for the premiere, which was scheduled for the autumn.
Shostakovich left on the same evening of the day the last movement was completed (20 July 1962) for Kiev to meet Boris Gmyrya, then on 23 July13 he went to Ust-Narva to see Evgeny Mravinsky, who were to participate in the premiere of the symphony. Some time later, however, both musicians declined to perform. In mid-August, the composer received a letter from Gmyrya, which said in part: ‘I have consulted with the leadership of the Ukrainian SSR concerning your 13th symphony. I was told that the Ukrainian leadership is categorically against the performance of Yevtushenko’s poem ‘Babi Yar’. In these circumstances, I, naturally, will be unable to take part in performing the symphony, which I am regretfully informing you of’.
Mravinsky, who was given the score in Ust-Narva, soon left for an extended tour abroad. He was supposed to submit the music for rewriting and preparation of the choir parts (it was presumed that Ye. Kudryavtseva’s choir would sing).
But before the beginning of the concert season, it transpired that the Thirteenth Symphony was not on the repertoire of the Leningrad Philharmonic, Mravinsky had not submitted the music to be rewritten, and the choir parts were not ready.
Shostakovich transferred the premiere to Moscow and asked kirill kondrashin to perform the symphony, who not long prior to this had conducted the sensational premiere of the Fourth Symphony, which was banned for quarter of a century. Kondrashin immediately accepted the offer. USSR Bolshoi Theatre soloist Alexander Vedernikov was invited to perform the solo part. But after he acquainted himself with the symphony, he refused to participate in the premiere. The offer went to Viktor Nechipailo (who was also a Bolshoi Theatre soloist at that time). On the recommendations of art director of the Moscow Philharmonic Alexander Grinberg, Vitali Gromadsky, a young singer and soloist of the Moscow Philharmonic, was appointed as the backup.
The premiere of the symphony was held on 18 and 20 December 1962 in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory performed by the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra with Kirill Kondrashin conducting and Vitaly Gromadsky, who replaced Viktor Nechipailo after the latter unexpectedly declined to participate in the concert (referring, according to one version, to being busy in an opera performance), singing the bass solo part. Glikman recalled: ‘...it is very difficult to convey in words what went on in the hall. The music was reminiscent, along with its brilliant humour, of an elevated liturgy. After the finale, the entire audience rose and a frenetic ovation began that lasted forever.’ The Soviet press, according to the same author, ‘said not a word about the concert’. Foreign journalists, on the contrary, wrote with great enthusiasm about the premiere of the Thirteenth Symphony, calling it nothing more than a triumph and a historical event.
Soon after the premiere of the symphony, Yevtushenko changed several lines of ‘Babi Yar’. One of the reasons for this was Nikita Khrushchev’s accusatory speech against the poet and his poem at a meeting of the Soviet leadership with literary and art figures held on 17 December 1962. In order to avoid cancelling subsequent performances of the symphony, Shostakovich had to agree to change the lines, although he did not like the new text.
The first performance in Minsk was accompanied by just as many difficulties as the Moscow premiere. A few days before the premiere, Vitaly Gromadsky unexpectedly backed out. Cancelling all his concerts, Askold Besedin, who was present at all the orchestral rehearsals of the Moscow premieres of the symphony in December 1962, agreed to perform instead.
In Minsk, where the symphony was performed on 19, 20 and 21 March 1963, the original, unrevised, text of the symphony was used.
After the Byelorussian premiere, the symphony was unofficially banned from the repertoire. Nevertheless, soon thereafter several performances of the symphony were held, both in Moscow (the Grand Hall of the Conservatory, 20 September 1965, 17 February 1966, 2 January 1967, and 1 April 1968) and in other cities. On 24 December 1965, the Gorky Philharmonic Orchestra performed a premiere in Gorky under the baton of Izrael Gusman with Vitaly Gromadsky singing the solo part.
On 25 June 1966, the long-awaited premiere was held in Leningrad; the symphony was performed in the Grand Hall of the Philharmonic by Artur Eisen and the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Kirill Kondrashin.
In contrast to Russian listeners, before the 1970s, the foreign audiences were only able to listen to the recording of the Thirteenth Symphony. In 1967, a gramophone record came out in the US of the symphony performed by Vitaly Gromadsky and the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kirill Kondrashin (Everest SDBR 3181), the cover of which said ‘Premiere Recording’.
The first foreign performance of the Thirteenth Symphony was held on 20 January 1970 in New York by soloist Tom Krause and the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Eugene Ormandy. The annotation to the concert gives a brief history of how the symphony was banned in the Soviet Union, and the full original text was printed in the prosaic translation into English.
The symphony was first performed in Continental Europe in the 1970s; in particular, in Rome (31 January 1970; soloist Ruggiero Raimondi, Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra, conductor Riccardo Muti), Leipzig (23 September 1974; soloist Hermann Christian Polster, Gewandhaus Orchestra, conductor Kurt Masur), and other cities.
All the Russian editions of the Thirteenth Symphony, beginning with the first publication of the score, used the version of the poem revised by Yevtushenko. The first version of this text was not published until 2006 in the facsimile edition of the author’s manuscript of the score.
- Vitali Gromadsky (bass), Republican State and Gnessin Institute Choirs (basses only), Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Kirill Kondrashin. 1962 // Russian Disc RDCD 11 191, 1993
- Artur Eizen (bass), RSFSR Academic Russian Choir, A. Yurlov (chorus-master), Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, K. Kondrashin. 1965 // Melodiya CM 02905-6, 1972
- Tom Krause (baritone), Male Chorus of the Mendelssohn Club, Robert E. Page (chorusmaster), Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy. 1970 // RCA Red Seal LSC 3162
- Dimiter Petkov (bass), Male voices of the London Symphony Chorus, Richard Hickox (chorusmaster), London Symphony Orchestra, Andre Previn. 1979 // HMV ASD 3911, 1981
- John Shirley-Quirk (baritone), Bavarian Radio Male Chorus and Symphony Orchestra, K. Kondrashin. 1980 // Philips LP 6514 120, 1982
- Marius Rintzler (bass), Male voices of the Concertgebouw Orchestra Choir, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Bernard Haitink. 1984 // Decca 414 410-1DH2, 1986
- Anatoli Safiulin (bass), Basses of the Yurlov Republican Russian Choir, Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky. 1985 // Melodiya A10 00285 000, 1988
- John Shirley-Quirk (baritone), The Golden Age Singers, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Rudolf Barshai. 1987 // Virgin V 2536, 1988
- Nicola Ghiuselev (bass), Men of the Choral Arts Society of Washington, National Symphony Orchestra, Mstislav Rostropovich. 1988 // Erato Nouveau BCD 75529, 1989
- Sergei Lieferkus (baritone), Men of the New York Choral Artists, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Kurt Masur. 1993 // Teldec 4509 90848-2, 1994
- Peter Mikulaš (bass), Male Choirs of the Prague Philharmonic and Pavel Kuhn Mixed Choir, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Maksim Shostakovich. 1995 // Supraphon SU 0160-2, 1996
- Sergei Baikov (bass), Estonia National Male Voice Choir, St Petersburg Camerata Orchestra, Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, Saulius Sondetskis. 1995 // Sony Classical St Petersburg Classics SMK 66591, 1995
- Sergei Aleksashkin (bass), Sir Anthony Hopkins (narrator), Chicago Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, Sir Georg Solti. 1995 // Decca 444 791-2DH, 1995
- Anatoli Kotscherga (bass), National Male Chorus of Estonia, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi. 1995 // Deutsche Grammophon 449 187-2GH, 1997
- Ayik Martyrosyan (bass), Russian State Symphonic Cappella, Russian State Symphony Orchestra, Valeri Polyansky. 1996 // Chandos CHAN 9690, 1998
- S. Leiferkus (baritone), Leeds Festival Chorus, Huddersfield Choral Society, BBC Philharmonic, Vassili Sinaisky. 1998 // BBC Proms BBCP 1002-2, 1999
- S. Aleksashkin (bass), Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Mariss Jansons. 2005 // EMI Classics 5 57902-2, 2005
- Pavel Kudinov (bass), Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro Sinfonico di Milano ‘Giuseppe Verdi’, Oleg Caetani. 2006 // Arts Music 47708-8, 2006
- Sergei Aleksashkin (bass), Moscow Chamber Choir, Vladimir Minin (chorus-master), Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, Vladimir Fedoseyev. 2006 // Relief CR 991081, 2008
- Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra. Alexander Sladkovsky. 2017 // Melodiya. MEL CD 1002470, 2017 (13 CDs)