Igor Stravinsky. Symphony of Psalms. Arrangement
Vol. 114 of the New Collected Works. DSCH Publishers, Moscow, 2017
Dmitri Shostakovich’s Archive in Moscow—rec. gr. 1, section 1, f. 315.
Igor Stravinsky. Symphony of Psalms
Arrangement for Piano Four Hands
Stravinsky’s composition, completed and first performed in 1930, was published in 1931. The Symphony of Psalms was not performed in public in the Soviet Union until 1962. However, the score published by Serge Koussevitzky’s Russian Music Publishers could be purchased at one time or received as a gift.
As in similar instances in the past, Shostakovich created this four-hand piano arrangement for a targeted audience. This time, it was intended for the students of his class at the Leningrad Conservatory. Shostakovich was invited to teach there as an acting professor in the spring of 1937 and gave his first
orchestration class, while in September of the same year he taught a composition class.
Among his first students were Yuri Sviridov, Orest Yevlakhov, Yuri Levitin and Veniamin Fleischman. As Yuri Levitin recalled, “the students in our class always played piano four hands for two hours after every lesson. Two of us would play and the others would follow from the score.” The arrangement of the Symphony of Psalms was part of the training repertoire for Shostakovich’s class during the pre-war and war years, as well as later: Karen Khachaturian, who began studying with Shostakovich in 1943 and Boris Tishchenko, a graduate student of the early 1960s, recalled this.
Shostakovich also recalled the arrangement of the Symphony of Psalms at a farewell banquet in honour of Igor Stravinsky in Moscow on 10 October 1962. According to Robert Craft’s diary, Shostakovich told Stravinsky that he “had been overwhelmed by the Symphony of Psalms when he first heard it, and that he had made his own piano score of it which he would like to present to I.S.”
Shostakovich considered Stravinsky to be an exceptionally important figure in modern music; he called his older contemporary the greatest composer of the 20th century. The interest was mutual, although Stravinsky’s evaluations of Shostakovich’s music could be far from positive.
However, despite all the differences in their creative biographies and human destinies, the two composers did have something in common, and the occasional coincidences in the genre of transcriptions and arrangements are probably not entirely fortuitous. Here we can name a number of compositions that both composers addressed: work on the completion of Musorgsky’s Khovanshchina, the orchestral versions of the Song of Mephistopheles in Auerbach’s Cellar by both Beethoven and Musorgsky and, finally, the orchestration of the song “Hey, Let’s Bang!” (“Ey, ukhnem!”) In all cases, Stravinsky’s versions appeared earlier, but Shostakovich most likely did not know about them.
LP—USSR: Melodiya C10 26307 004 (Album 6 of ‘From Manuscripts of Different Years’) . Viktoria POSTNIKOVA and Irina SCHNITTKE (piano). P 1983-86, I 1988d.