Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 10/Shostakovich

May 23, 2011

Continuing my series of 1st Symphonies we come to this 20th Century gem written by an 18 year old in 1924 as his graduation work which when premiered in 1926 vaulted the young composer into international prominence. While this was a student project it must take its place as one of the finest 1st symphony accomplishments of all time. . And yes I’m thinking about Mahler, Prokofiev, Brahms, and Schumann.

Bernstein said it best when he said before a rehearsal that this work has an “up yours” attitude. His assessment describes the work perfectly.

The thirty three minute four movement work is filled with all sorts of wonderful ideas including the piano taking a role in the second movement as well as the fourth. The first movement, an Allegretto is truly something you’ve not experienced before; a masterpiece of both originality and orchestration. There is a modern sound but the themes are melodic as they are tossed back and forth in the orchestra. The second movement, an Allegro, begins as a Scherzo with clarinet, piano, oboe, and strings. It abruptly changes to a rather pensive mood with the lower strings offering the second melody. Yet the Scherzo is not finished as it returns to a quicker pace and the conclusion. Again this is quite unique in style. The third movement, a Lento, is somber and quite funeral like; the agony is heard from the strings and the brass. The fourth movement is also a Lento slowly building to a dissonant angry section followed by serenity from a Cello, that yearning acceptance that it is peaceful. However, the movement isn’t finished as it slowly rises into an agitated state again. Shostakovich is so unique in his use of brass that a few bars are a giveaway as to who wrote it.

Both the EMI (5 55361 2) and the Naxos (8.572396) are good digital recordings, offering excellent treble, bass and a good feeling of presence. The nod goes to Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic as he is continuing his cycle of recording the Shostakovich symphonies. It is coupled with his third symphony. Mariss Jansons and the Berlin Philharmonic offer a stoic approach and while well played ii is missing the fervor of the Royal Liverpool. However, it is coupled with the Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings and both soloists Mikhail on piano and Antonsen on trumpet perform extremely well As a result I like both recordings as this is the only one I have of the C minor concerto and I hear the improvement in the 1st Symphony. The EMI can be found at an attractive price and Naxos is always a staple in the industry for value and performance. Recommended

Track Listing:

1…. Allegretto-Allegro non troppo (8:21)

2…. Allegro (5:36)

3…. Lento-Largo (9:24)

4…. Lento-Allegro molto-Adagio-Largo-Presto (10:02)

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One Response to “Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 10/Shostakovich”

  1. Alan Rogers Says:

    I came across Shostakovich’s symphonies when I was researching the use of his music in the film Battleship Potemkin. His symphonic works are definitely worth investing the time (and money) in.


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