“Aphorisms” for Piano
Leningrad Conservatory Malyi Hall. Dmitri Shostakovich
The Glinka All-Russia Museum Association of Musical Culture (VMOMK), rec. gr. 146, f. 241; rec. gr. 32, f. 2278; RSALA, rec. gr. 2048, inv. 2, f. 16
Ten Miniatures for Piano
According to the pieces’ datings in the fair manuscript from the Y avorsky Foundation, the Aphorisms cycle was written between 25 February and 7 April 1927. In the Questionnaire on the Psychology of the Creative Process, Shostakovich stated: “At the beginning of March, … in Leningrad, I began composing and wrote ten pieces in one fell swoop. The preparatory stage lasted a month.”
The title Aphorisms, instead of Suite, was suggested by Boris Yavorsky. “I have finished my Suite,” Shostakovich wrote to Yavorsky, “and called it ‘Aphorisms’ (as you suggested). I composed a total of 12. Two of them I threw in the trash.” Soon the author’s manuscript with dedication was sent to the dedicatee.
Aphorisms is a cycle of ten concise pieces with genre or programmatic titles:
5. Funeral March;
7. Dance of Death (Original name—“Dance of Dead”);
Each of the ten titles refers to a specific musical “topos”, but in most cases the music, runs contrary to all expectation. “Nocturne”, in Shostakovich’s interpretation, is the antithesis of nocturne as a romantic genre: it has “no melody, harmony, time or bar-lines”. In “Funeral March”, the metronome designation quater = 152 (indicating a quick movement of short rhythmic units), the major mode and constantly changing time play the same role. While in “Etude”, the title implies nothing more than an absurd combination of genre formulas.
Shostakovich played Aphorisms for the first time on 19 May 1927 at the Leningrad Conservatory, during the second concert of the Leningrad Association of Contemporary Music.
Soon after the cycle was completed, Aphorisms was accepted for publication by Triton Publishers and came out in 1927, and then in 1929.
Subsequent publications did not appear until the end of the 1960s. There was an equally long gap between the performances of Aphorisms, from the end of the 1920s until the end of the 1960s (almost 40 years!). Despite the absence of this composition in the publishing plans and concert announcements, in 1948, it appeared on the list of Shostakovich’s works that were banned from performance and removed from the repertoire.
Aphorisms was recorded for the first time by Vladimir Pleshakov in 1969 at the Orion company.
- Arranged by B. Bekhterev and V. Spivakov. Moscow ensemble of contemporary music:
A. Melnikov, N. Sabinova, V. Yampolsky, V. Popov, S. Ampleev. 1994
TRITON 17 011, 1996
- E. Varvarova. 1989
LDC 278 1012, 1989