Symphony No. 4
Moscow Conservatory Bolshoi Hall. Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Kirill Kondrashin (conductor).
1962, Moscow, Soviet composer (Composer’s reduction for two pianos was published in 1946.)
First Performance: December 30, 1961.
The first performance of the symphony by the orchestra of the Leningrad State Philharmonia Orchestra was planned for the autumn of 1935, however, the composer cancelled the performance.
The symphony was performed for the first time on December 30, 1961 in Moscow in the Great Hall of the Conservatoire by the Moscow State Philharmonia Orchestra with K. Kondrashin as conductor.
First Edition: "Sovietskii kompozitor" Publishers, 1962.
"At the moment I am about to start writing my Fourth Symphony which will be something in the way of a credo for my creative work. <...>
The main task facing me now is to find a simple and expressive musical language all of my own. Sometimes this search for a simple language is understood in a rather superficial way. Often 'simplicity' can turn into mere imitation. Yet, to speak simply does not mean speaking in the way people used to fifty or a hundred years ago. This is a trap which many composers fall into, when they are anxious of being reproached for formalism. Formalism and mere imitation are the worst enemies of Soviet musical culture. If he avoids
this Scylla and Charybdis, the Soviet composer can become a true champion of our great era".
"The composer's score for this symphony has not survived. The only copy of this score which was in Leningrad was reconstituted from the orchestral ones. He gave me a very friendly greeting and said:' So many years have past, I have forgotten a great deal and the score is lost. Leave me the transcript, I'll go through it: come to me the day after tomorrow and then we'll decide whether we can play it or it needs reworking'.
Two days later I arrived at the given time and Shostakovich said as he handed back the score: 'It can be played as it is. I shall ring Leningrad and they'll send you the score. You don't have to re-work it at all, there is something in this symphony still dear to me today'."
The rehearsals began under the supervision of Fritz Stiedry, who directed the Symphonic Orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonic at that time. But after two rehearsals, Shostakovich removed the symphony from the repertoire.
…Nevertheless, rumours that the formalist composer was preparing for the premiere filtered beyond the music world… Director of the Leningrad Philharmonic Isai Renzin invited Shostakovich to come and see him and asked him to abandon the idea of putting on the premiere, explaining this by the city leadership’s displeasure and the clouds gathering over the philharmonic: ‘If you do not feel sorry for yourself, at least feel some sympathy for us,’ said Renzin. Now it was not only his own fate that hung in the balance. Shostakovich could not risk the lives of other people.”6 Isaak Glikman, who accompanied Shostakovich after his visit to the director, recalls: “He said in an even, flat voice with hardly any intonation that the symphony would not be performed, that it had been removed from the repertoire on Renzin’s insistence, who, not wishing to resort to administrative measures, had asked the author to remove the symphony from the repertoire himself.
The feeling of anticipation about the unperformed premiere remained with the composer for decades. He continued to show the symphony in its piano arrangement to friends and colleagues.
In 1960, while working on his autobiographical Eighth Quartet, Shostakovich included the main theme of the finale of the Fourth Symphony in its original version. A year later, the symphony was finally performed.
The initiative for performing the symphony at the turn of the 1950s-1960s came from Moses Grinberg. “The leadership of the Moscow Philharmonic in the person of its artistic director Moses Grinberg asked me to take a look at Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony and say whether I thought it worth reviving and whether I would take this responsibility upon myself,” recalled conductor Kirill Kondrashin. “Dmitri Shostakovich himself still did not know of this intention. The author’s score of this symphony had not been preserved. The only copy of the score restored by B.G. Shalman in keeping with the orchestra parts was in Leningrad. I only had the arrangement for two pianos.”
The conductor went to see Shostakovich for permission and advice. Shostakovich did not immediately give his consent. “So many years have passed, I have forgotten a great deal, and I have lost the score. Leave me the arrangement, I will take a look at it, come and see me again the day after tomorrow and we will decide whether it is worth playing this composition or whether it should be rewritten… I showed up at the appointed time,” Kondrashin goes on to relate, “and Dmitri Shostakovich, returning me the piano score, said, ‘You can play it. I will phone Leningrad and you will be sent the score. Nothing needs to be rewritten. This symphony still has something dear to me.’
The premiere of the Fourth Symphony was held on 30 December 1961 in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. Kondrashin conducted the orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic. The premiere was a huge and triumphal success and aroused an enraptured furore in the press. On 20 and 24 January 1962, the symphony was repeated (with the same conductor and in the same hall). “At home after the concert that had been such a resounding success,” recalled Glikman, “Dmitri Dmitrievich said, still under the effect of what he had heard, ‘It seems to me that in many respects the Fourth is better than my most recent symphonies.’ ”
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