Works Compositions for Solo Voice(s) and Orchestra

Six Romances on Japanese Poems

Opus 20 Opus 22

Opus 21
1928-1932 year

Shostakovich's Vocal Cycles of the 1920s-1930s.
Dmitri Shostakovich’s Vocal Compositions.


Leningrad, Concert Hall of the Academic Glinka Capella; Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, Igor Blazhkov (conductor), Anatoli Manukhov (tenor)

first publication:

Collected works, vol. 31. Moscow, Muzyka


RSALA, rec. gr. 2048, inv. 1, f. 26, 45

Six Romances
on Japanese Poems
The cycle is dedicated to Nina Vassilyevna Varzar.
     1. Love. Words by an unknown author. Translation by A. Brandt.
     2. Before Suicide. Words by Otsuno Odzi (7th century). Translation by A. Brandt.
     3. Immodest Glance. Words by an unknown author of the 18th century. Translation by A. Brandt.
     4. For the First and Last Time. Words by A. Prace.
     5. Hopeless Love. Words by an unknown author.
     6. Death. Words by an unknown author.
Duration 13'
  One of Shostakovich’s first vocal cycles was written in 1928-1932.
  There were several reasons for Shostakovich’s interest in Japanese culture. One might have been the composer’s presumed acquaintance with a troupe from the Japanese Kabuki Theatre directed by  Ichikawa Sadanji II (1880-1940) that toured the Soviet Union in the summer of 1928. Shostakovich might have met the Japanese actors while attending their performances at the Meyerhold State Theatre, where he worked for a short time at the beginning of 1928.
  We know that 1928 was the year Shostakovich became friendly with Meyerhold. For some time at the beginning of the year he worked at GosTIM as a pianist and head of the music sector. The composer was also acquainted with Erast Garin, who performed the role of Khlestakov in The Inspector General. So it is highly likely that Shostakovich not only saw the Kabuki performances, but perhaps also became personally acquainted with the Japanese actors.
  The original version of the cycle consisted of three parts:
    1. Love,
    2. Before Suicide,
    3. Immodest Glance.
  In Shostakovich’s postgraduate report of 1929, this early version features under the title “Three Excerpts from Japanese Poetry for Voice and Piano, Op. 16”.
  In 1931, Shostakovich decided to continue the cycle and wrote another three romances:
    4. For the First and Last Time (1931),
    5. Hopeless Love (1932),
    6. Death (1932).
  In its final version, the cycle is designated as Op. 21.
  It is possible that meeting and becoming acquainted with prominent Japanese composer Kosaku Yamada, who came to the Soviet Union for the first time in 1931 accompanied by singer Hajime Maki and other Japanese cultural figures, inspired Shostakovich to return to this work.
  There is no doubt that the score was written in 1932, after completion of all six parts of the cycle. This is clear from the fact that the original three-part version features on the early lists as a composition for voice and piano. When orchestrating the first three romances, Shostakovich made many and at times extremely significant changes to the music. There are no such significant differences in the three later romances between the piano score and the score.
  The premiere of Six Romances on Japanese Poems, Op. 21 for Tenor and Orchestra was held in Leningrad in the hall of the Glinka Academic Kapelle on 24 April 1966. The symphony orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonic was conducted by Igor Blazhkov. Soloist A. Manukhov.
  The first performance of the cycle’s version for solo voice and piano took place after the composer’s death, on 30 March 1977. Alexei Maslennikov and Liya Mogilevskaya (piano) performed the cycle in a
concert held at the Moscow House of Composers.
  The first editions of the cycle (score and piano score) were collotyped (the year they came out is not known).
  The score of Op. 21 was published in Volume 31 of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Collected Works, the piano score was published in Volume 32 (Muzyka Publishers, Moscow, 1982).
  In 1987, Hans Sikorski Publishers put out the chamber-vocal version of the cycle Op. 21a with Russian and German versions of the verses.
  Alexei Maslennikov and Liya Mogilevskaya did the premiere recording of the cycle. The same singer participated in the recording of the orchestral version of the cycle together with the Symphony Orchestra of the USSR Ministry of Culture under the baton of Gennadi Rozhdestvensky.


  • (Op. 21a). A. Maslennikov (tenor), L. Mogilevskaya (piano). 1978 // Melodiya C10 10617-8, 1978
  • USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra. A. Maslennikov (tenor), G. Rozhdestvensky (conductor). 1982 // Melodiya C10 19103 004, 1983.
  • Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. I. Levinsky (tenor), N. Järvi (conductor). 1994 // Deutsche Grammophon 447 085-2GH, 1996
  • Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra. V. Kasatschuk (tenor), M. Yurovsky (conductor). 1995 // Capriccio 10 777, 1998