Shostakovich – Symphony No. 13 (Babi Yar) – Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra (Het Radio Filharmonisch Orkest) performs Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 in B flat minor (Op. 113, subtitled Babi Yar). Conductor: Dmitri Slobodeniouk. Bass: Sergej Aleksashkin. On April 3, 2011 at the Grote Zaal Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.

This work has been variously called a song cycle and a choral symphony since the composer included settings of poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (born 18 July 1932, the Soviet and Russian poet) that concerned the World War II Babi Yar massacre and other topics.

It was first performed in Moscow on 18 December 1962 by the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra and the basses of the Republican State and Gnessin Institute Choirs, directed by Kirill Kondrashin.

Movements

1. Babi Yar: Adagio

Babi Yar is a ravine in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and a site of a series of massacres carried out by German forces and local collaborators during their campaign against the Soviet Union.

The most notorious and the best documented of these massacres took place on 29–30 September 1941, wherein 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation. The decision to kill all the Jews in Kiev was made by the military governor, Major-General Kurt Eberhard, the Police Commander for Army Group South, SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, and the Einsatzgruppe C Commander Otto Rasch. It was carried out by Sonderkommando 4a soldiers, along with the aid of the SD and SS Police Battalions backed by the local police. The massacre was the largest single mass killing for which the Nazi regime and its collaborators were responsible during its campaign against the Soviet Union and is considered to be “the largest single massacre in the history of the Holocaust” to that particular date, surpassed only by the Aktion Erntefest of November 1943 in occupied Poland with 42,000-43,000 victims, and the 1941 Odessa massacre of more than 50,000 Jews in October 1941, committed by Romanian troops.

Victims of other massacres at the site included Soviet prisoners of war, communists and Roma. It is estimated that between 100,000 and 150,000 lives were taken at Babi Yar during the German occupation.

In this movement, Shostakovich and Yevtushenko transform the mass murder by Nazis of Jews at Babi Yar. Shostakovich sets the poem as a series of theatrical episodes – the Dreyfus affair, the Białystok pogrom and the story of Anne Frank – as extended interludes to the main theme of the poem, lending the movement the dramatic structure and theatrical imagery of opera while resorting to graphic illustration and vivid word painting. For instance, the mocking of the imprisoned Dreyfus by poking umbrellas at him through the prison bars may be in an accentuated pair of quarter-notes in the brass, with the build-up of menace in the Anne Frank episode, culminating in the musical image of the breaking down of the door to the Franks’ hiding place, which underlines the hunting down of that family.

Lyrics

Russian (transliterated)

Chorus
Nad Babim Yarom pamyatnikov nyet.
Krutoi obryv, kak gruboye nadgrobye.
Mne strashno.
Mne sevodnya stolko let,
Kak samomu yevreiskomu narodu.

Solo
Mne kazhetsya seichas – ya iudei.
vot ya bredu po drevnemu Egiptu.
A vot ya, na kreste raspyati, gibnu.
I do sikh por na mne – sledy gvozdei.
Mne kazhestya, shot Dreifus – eto ya.
Meshchanstvo – moi donoschik i sudya.
Ya za reshotkoi. Ya popal v koltso,
Zatravlennyi, oplyovannyi, obolgannyi,
I admochki s bryusselskimi oborkami,
Vizzha, zontami tychut mne v litso.
Mne kahzetsya, ya – malchik v Belostoke.

Chorus
Krov lyotsya, rastekayas po polam,
Beschinstvuyut vozhdi traktimoi stoiki
I pakhnut vodkoi s lukom popolam.

Solo
Ya sapogom otbroshennyi, bessilnyi.
Naprasno ya pogromshchikov moyu.

Chorus
Pod gogot: “Bei zhidov, spasai Rossiyu!”
Labaznik izbiyavet mat moyu.

Solo
O russki moi narod, ya znayu ty
Po sushchnosti internazionalen.
No chasto te, chi ruki nechisty
Tvoim chiteishim imenem bryatsali.
Ya znayu dobrotu moyei zemli.
Kak podlo, shto i zhilochkoi ne drognuv.
Antisemity narekli sebya

Solo and Chorus
“Soyuzom Russkovo Naroda!”

Solo
Mne kazhetsya ya – eto Anna Frank,
Prozrachnaya, kak vetochka v aprele,
I ya lyublyu, i mne ne nado fraz,
No nado, shtob drug v druga my smotreli.
Kak malo mozhno videt, obonyat!
Nelzya nam listyev
I nelzya nam neba,
No mozhno ochen mnogo – eto nezhno
Drug druga v tyomnoi komnate obnyat.

Chorus
“Syuda idut!”

Solo
“Ne bosa, eto guly
Samoy vesny. Ona syuda idyot.
Idi ko mne,
Dai mne skoreye guby!”

Chorus
“Lomayut dver!”

Solo
“Nyet, eto ledokhod…”

Chorus
Nad Babim Yarom shelest dikikh trav,
Derevya smotryat grozno, po-sudeiski.
Zdes molcha vsyo krichit, i, shapku snyav,
Ya chuvstvuyu, kak medlenno sedeyu.

Solo
I sam ya, kak sploshnoi bezzvuchnyi krik,
Nad tysyachami tysyach pogrebyonnykh.
Ya – kazhdyi zdes rasstrelyanni starik.
Ya – kazhdyi zdes rasstrelyanni rebyonok.
Nichto vo mne pro eto ne zabudet.

Chorus
“Internatsional” pust progremit.
Kogda naveki pokhoronen budet
Posledni na zemle antisemit.

Solo
Yevreiskoi krovi nyet v krovi moyei,
No nenavisten zloboi zaskoruzloi
Ya vsem antisemitam, kak yevrei.

Solo and Chorus
I potomu ya – nastoyashchi Russki!

English

Chorus
Over Babi Yar there are no monuments.
The steep precipice is like a crude gravestone.
I am terrified.
I am as old today
As all Jewish people.

Solo
Now I imagine that I’m a Jew.
Here I wander through ancient Egypt.
And here, on the cross, crucified, I perish.
And still I have on me the marks of the nails.
I imagine myself to be Dreyfus.
The Philistine – my informer and judge.
I am behind bars. I am surrounded.
Persecuted, spat on, slandered.
And dainty ladies in Brussels frills,
Squealing, poke their parasols into my face.
I imagine myself the boy from Belostok.

Chorus
Blood flows, running over the floors.
The rabble-rousers in the tavern commit their outrages
Reeking of vodka and onions, half and half.

Solo
Kicked by a boot, I lie helpless.
In vain I plead with the pogrom-makers.

Chorus
Accompanied by jeers: “Beat the Yids, save Russia!”
A grain merchant batters my mother.

Solo
O my Russian people, I know you
Are innately international
But often those whose hands were vile
In vain used your purest name.
I know the goodness of my land.
What base lowness – without a quiver of a vein
The anti-Semites proclaimed themselves

Solo and Chorus
“The Union of the Russian People!”

Solo
I imagine myself as Anne Frank,
Transparent as a sprig in April,
And I love, and have no need for phrases,
But I do need for us to gaze into each other.
How little one can see, or smell!
Leaves – we cannot have,
Sky – we cannot have,
But there is so much we can have –
To embrace tenderly in a darkened room.

Chorus
“They’re coming!”

Solo
“Don’t be afraid, those are the booming sounds
Of Spring itself. It’s coming here.
Come to me,
Quickly, give me your lips!”

Chorus
“They’re breaking the door!”

Solo
“No, it’s the ice breaking…”

Chorus
Over Babi Yar the wild grasses rustle.
The trees look sternly as if in judgement.
Here everything screams silently and, taking off my hat
I feel I am slowly turning grey.

Solo
And I myself am one long soundless cry.
Above the thousand thousands buried here.
I am every old man here shot dead.
I am every child here shot dead.
Nothing in me will ever forget this.

Chorus
The “Internationale” – let it thunder
When forever will be buried
The last of the anti-Semites on earth.

Solo
There is no Jewish blood in mine,
But I am adamantly hated
By all anti-Semites as if I were a Jew.

Solo and Chorus
That is why I am a true Russian!

2. Humor: Allegretto

Shostakovich quotes his setting of the Robert Burns poem “MacPherson Before His Execution” to color Yevtushenko’s imagery of the spirit of mockery, endlessly murdered and endlessly resurrected, denouncing the vain attempts of tyrants to shackle wit. The movement is a Mahlerian gesture of mocking burlesque, not simply light or humorous but witty, satirical and parodistic. The irrepressible energy of the music illustrates that, just as with courage and folly, humor, even in the form of “laughing in the face of the gallows” is both irrepressible and eternal (a concept, incidentally, also present in the Burns poem). He also quotes a melody of the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion by Bartók ironically, as response for the criticism toward Symphony 7.

Lyrics

Russian (transliterated): Yumor

Solo
Tsari, koroli, imperatory,
Vlastiteli vsei zemli,
Komandovali paradami,
No yumorom, no yumorom ne mogli.
V dvortsy imenitykh osob,
Vse dni volzezhashchikh vykholenno,

Solo and Chorus
Yavlyalsya brodyaga Ezop,
I nishchimi oni vyglyadeli.

Solo
V domakh, gde khanzha nsledil
Svoimi nogamig shchuplymi,

Solo and Chorus
Vsyu poshlost Khodzha Nasreddin
Sshibal, kak shakhmaty, shutkami.

Solo
Khoteli humor kupit.

Chorus
Da tolko evo ne kupish!

Solo
Khoteli yumor ubit.

Chorus
A yumor pokazyal kukish.

Solo
Bortsya s nim – delo trudnoye,
Kaznili evo bez kontsa.

Chorus
Evo golova obtrublennaya
Torchala na pike streltsa.

Solo
No lish skomoroshi dudochki
Svoi nachinali skaz,
On zvonko krichal: “Ya tutochki.”

Solo and Chorus
I likho puskalsya v plyas.

Solo
V potryopannom kutsem palitshke,
Ponuryas i slovno kayas,
Prestupnikom politicheskim
On, poimannyi, shol na kazn.
Vsem vidom pokornost vykalzyval,
Gotov k nezemnomu zhityu,
Kak vdrug iz paltishka vyskalzyval,
Rukoi makhal

Solo and Chorus
I tyu-tyu!

Solo
Yumor pryatali v kamery,
Da chorta s dva udalos.

Solo and Chorus
Reshotki i steny kamennyye
On prokhodli naskvoz.
Otkashlivayas prostuzhenno,
Kak ryadovoi boyets
Shagal on chastushkoi-prostushkoi
S vintovkoi na Zimni dvoryets.

Solo
Privyk on ko vzglyadam sumrachnym,
No eto yemu ne vredit,
I sam na sebya s yumorom
Yumor poroi glyadit.

Solo and Chorus
On vechen.
On lovok.
I yurok.

Solo
Prodyot cherez vsyo, cherez vsekh.

Solo and Chorus
Itak, da slavitsya yumor!
On – muzhesvennyi chelovek.

English: Humor

Solo
Tsars, kings, emperors,
Rulers of the world,
Commanded parades
But humor – humor they could not.
To the palaces of the eminent
Who, well groomed, all day reclined.

Solo and Chorus
Came the vagabond Aesop
And before him all appeared impoverished.

Solo
In homes where a hypocrite left traces
Of his puny feet,

Solo and Chorus
And this banality Hadji Nasr-ed-Din
Swept aside with his jokes like a chessboard.

Solo
They wanted to buy humor.

Chorus
Only he cannot be bought!

Solo
They wanted to kill humor.

Chorus
But humor thumbed his nose.

Solo
To battle him is tough business.
They executed him endlessly.

Chorus
Humor’s severed head
Was stuck on a warrior’s pike.

Solo
Just when the buffoons’ pipes
Would start their tale
He would brightly cry: “I’m here.”

Solo and Chorus
And would break into a dashing dance.

Solo
In a threadbare scanty coat,
Crestfallen and as if repenting,
Caught as a political prisoner
He would go to his execution.
His appearance displayed obedience,
Ready for his life hereafter,
When suddenly he would slip out of his coat
Waiving his hand

Solo and Chorus
And bye-bye!

Solo
They hid humor in cells,
But like hell they succeeded.

Solo and Chorus
Iron bars and stone walls
He would pass right through.
Cleaning his throat from the cold,
Like an ordinary soldier
He marched as a simple ditty
With a rifle for the Winter Palace.

Solo
He is used to stern glances,
But it does not hurt him.
And humor looks upon himself
At times with humor.

Solo and Chorus
He is everlasting.
He is smart.
And nimble.

Solo
He will walk through everything and everybody.

Solo and Chorus
And so, glory to humor!
He is a courageous fellow.

3. In the Store: Adagio

This movement is about the hardship of Soviet women during World War II. It is also a tribute to patient endurance. This arouses Shostakovich’s compassion no less than racial prejudice and gratuitous violence. Written in the form of a lament, the chorus departs from its unison line in the music’s two concluding harmonized chords for the only time in the entire symphony, ending on an plagal cadence functioning much the same as a liturgical amen.

Lyrics

Russian (transliterated): V magazine

Solo
Kto v platke, a kto v platochke,
Kak na podvig, kak na trud,
V magazin poodinochke
Molcha zehnshchiny idut.

Chorus
O, bidonov ikh bryatsanye,
Zvon butylok i kastryul.
Pakhnet lukom, ogurtsami,
Pakhnet sousom Kabul.

Solo
Zyabnu, dolgo v kassu stoya,
No pokuda dvizhus k nei,
Ot dykhanya zhenshchin stolkikh
V magazine vsyo teplei.

Solo and Chorus
Oni tikho podzhidayut,
Bogi dobryye semi,
I v rukakh oni szhimayut
Dengi trudnyye svoi.

Solo
Eto zhenshchiny Rossii,
Eto nasha chest i sud.
I beton oni mesili,
I pakhali, i kosili.

Solo and Chorus
Vsyo oni perenosili,
Vsyo oni perenesut.

Solo
Vsyo na svete im posilno,
Skolko sily im dano.

Solo and Chorus
Ikh obschityvat postydno,
Ikh obveshivat greshno

Solo
I, v karman pelmeni sunuv,
Ya smotryu, surov i tikh,
Na ustalyye ot sumok
Ruki pravednyye ikh.

English: In the Store

Solo
Some in shawls, some kerchiefs,
As if to a heroic feat or labor
Into the store one by one
Women silently enter.

Chorus
Oh, the clanking of the cans,
The clanging of the bottles and saucepans.
The smell of onions and cucumbers,
The smell of “Kabul” sauce.

Solo
I shiver queuing for the cashier
But as I keep moving closer
From the breathing of so many women
It gets warmer in the store.

Solo and Chorus
They wait silently,
The family’s kind gods,
As they clutch in their hands
The hard-earned money.

Solo
These are women of Russia,
They are our honor and our conscience.
They have mixed concrete
And ploughed and reaped.

Solo and Chorus
They have endured everything.
They will endure everything.

Solo
Everything on earth is possible for them,
They have been given so much strength.

Solo and Chorus
It is shameful to short-change them.
It is sinful to short-weigh them.

Solo
And, shoving dumplings into my pocket,
I look, solemn and quiet,
At their weary-from-shopping,
Saintly hands.

4. Fears: Largo

This movement touches on the subject of suppression in the Soviet Union and is the most elaborate musically of the symphony’s five movements, using a variety of musical ideas to stress its message, from an angry march to alternating soft and violent episodes. Notable here are the orchestral effects — the tuba, for instance, hearkening back to the “midnight arrest” section of the first movement of the Fourth Symphony — containing some of the composer’s most adventurous instrumental touches since his Modernist period. It also foresees some of Shostakovich’s later practices, such as an 11-note tone row played by the tuba as an opening motif. Harmonic ambiguity instills a deep sense of unease as the chorus intones the first lines of the poem: “Fears are dying-out in Russia.” Shostakovich breaks this mood only in response to Yevtushenko’s agitprop lines, “We weren’t afraid/of construction work in blizzards/or of going into battle under shell-fire,” parodying the Soviet marching song Smelo tovarishchi v nogu (“Bravely, comrades, march to step”).

Lyrics

Russian (transliterated): Strakhi

Chorus
Umirayut i Rossii strakhi,
Slovno prizraki prezhnikh let.
Lish na paperti, kak starukhi,
Koye-gde eshcho prosyat na khleb.

Solo
Ya ihk pomnyu vo vlasti i sile
Pri dvore torzhestvuyushchei lzhi.
Strakhi vsyudu kak teni skolzili,
Pronikali vo vsye etazhi.
Potikhonku lyudei priruchali
I na vsyo nalagali pechat.
Gde molchat by, krichat priruchali,
I molchat, gde by nado krichat.
Eto stalo sevodnya dalyokim,
Dazhe stranno i vspomnit teper.
Tainyi strakh pered chim to donosom,
Tainyi strakh pered stukom v dver.
Nu, a strakh govorit s inostrantsem,
S inostrantsem to shto, a s zhenoi.
Nu, a strakh bezotchotnyi ostatsya
Posle marshei vdvoyom s tishinoi.

Chorus
Ne boyalis my stroit v meteli,
Ukhodit pod snaryadami v bo,
No boyalis poroyu smertelno
Razgovarivat sami s sobo.
Nas ne sbili i ne rastili,
I nedarom seichas vo vragakh
Pobedivshaya strakhi Rossiya
Yeshcho bolshi rozhdayet strakh.

Solo
Strakhi novyye vizhu, svetleya:
Strakh neiskrennim byt so strano,
Strakh nepravdo unizit idei,
Shto yavlyautsya pravdoi samoi.
Strakh fanfarit do odurenya,
Strakh chuzhiye slova povtoryat,
Strakh unizit drugikh nedoveryem
I chrezmerno sebe doveryat.

Chorus
Umirayut v Rossii strakhi.

Solo
I kogda ya pishu eti stroki
I poroyu nevolno speshu,
To pishu ikh v yedinstvennom strakhe,
Shto ne v polnuyu silu pishu.

English: Fears

Chorus
In Russia fears are dying
Like the ghosts of yesteryears.
Only on church steps here and there like old women
They are begging for bread.

Solo
I remember fears being in power and force
At the court of triumphant lie.
Fears like shadows slithered everywhere,
Infiltrated every floor.
Gradually they tamed the people
And on everything affixed their seal.
Where silence should be, they taught screaming,
They taught silence, where shouting would be right.
This, today, has become distant,
It is strange even to recall it now.
The secret fear at someone informing,
The secret fear at a knock at the door.
Then, a fear to speak to a foreigner;
Foreigner – nothing, even with one’s own wife.
And unaccountable fear, after marches,
To remain alone with silence, eye to eye.

Chorus
We did not fear to build in snowstorms,
To march into battle under fire.
But we deathly feared at times
To talk to ourselves
We did not get demoralized or corrupted,
And it is not without reason
That Russia, having conquered her own fears,
Spreads even greater fear in her enemies.

Solo
I see new fears arising,
The fear of being insincere to the country,
The fear of degrading the ideas
That are truth in themselves.
The fear of bragging until stupor,
The fear of repeating someone else’s words,
The fear of belittling others with distrust
And to trust oneself excessively.

Chorus
In Russia fears are dying.

Solo
As I write these lines,
And at times unwittingly hurry,
I write them with the single fear
Of not writing at full speed.

5. Career: Allegretto

While this movement opens with a pastoral duet by flutes over a B flat pedal bass, giving the musical effect of sunshine after a storm,[5] it is an ironic attack on bureaucrats, touching on cynical self-interest and robotic unanimity while also a tribute to genuine creativity.[2] It follows in the vein of other satirical finales, especially the Eighth Symphony and the Fourth and Sixth String Quartets.[1] The soloist comes onto equal terms with the chorus, with sarcastic commentary provided by the bassoon and other wind instruments, as well as rude squeaking from the trumpets.[5] It also relies more than the other movements on purely orchestral passages as links between vocal statements.

Lyrics

Russian (transliterated): Karyera

Solo
Tverdili pastyri, shto vreden
I nerazumen Galilei.

Chorus
Shto nerazumen Galilei,

Solo
No, kak pokazyvayet vremya,

Solo and Chorus
Kto nerazumnei, tot umnei,

Solo
Uchonyi, sverstnik Galileya,

Solo and Chorus
Byl Galileya ne glupeye,

Solo
On znal, shto vertitsya zemlya,

Solo and Chorus
No u nevo byla semya,

Solo
I on, sadyas s zhenoi v karetu,
Svershiv predatelstvo svoyo,
Schital, shto delayet karyeru,

Solo and Chorus
A mezhdu tem gubil yeyo,

Solo
Za osoznaniye planety
Shol Galilei odin na risk,

Solo and Chorus
I stal velikim on.

Solo
Vot eto

Solo and Chorus
Ya ponimayu – karyerist!

Chorus
Itak, da zdravstvuyet karyera,
Kogda karyera takova,
Kak u Shekspira i Pastera,
Nyutona i Tolstovo,
I Tolstovo.

Solo
Lva?

Chorus
Lva!
Zachem ikh gryazyu pokryvali?
Talant, talant, kak ni kleimi.

Solo
Zabyty te, kto proklinali.

Chorus
No pomnyat tekh, kovo klyali,

Solo
Vse te, kto rvalis v stratosferu,
Vrachi, shto gibli ot kholer,
Vot eti delali karyeru!

Solo and Chorus
Ya s ikh karyer beru primer.

Solo
Ya veryu v ikh svyatuyu veru.
Ikh vera – muzhestvo moyo.
Ya delayu sebe karyeru
Tem, shto ne delayu yeyo!

English: Career

Solo
The clergy maintained that Galileo
Was a wicked and senseless man.

Chorus
Galileo was senseless.

Solo
But, as time demonstrated,

Solo and Chorus
He who is senseless is much wiser.

Solo
A fellow scientist of Galileo’s age

Solo and Chorus
Was no less wise than Galileo.

Solo
He knew that the earth revolved.

Solo and Chorus
But – he had a family.

Solo
And he, stepping into a carriage with his wife,
Having accomplished his betrayal,
Considered himself advancing his career,

Solo and Chorus
Whereas he undermined it,

Solo
For his assertion of our planet
Galileo faced the risk alone

Solo and Chorus
And became truly great.

Solo
Now this

Solo and Chorus
To my mind, this is a true careerist!

Chorus
Thus – salute to the career!
When the career is similar
To Shakespeare and Pasteur,
Newton and Tolstoy,
And Tolstoy.

Solo
Leo?

Chorus
Leo!
Why was mud flung at them?
Talent is talent, brand them as one may.

Solo
Those who cursed them are forgotten.

Chorus
But the accursed are remembered well,

Solo
All those who yearned for the stratosphere,
The doctors who perished fighting cholera,
They were pursuing a career!

Solo and Chorus
I take as an example their careers.

Solo
I believe in their sacred belief.
Their belief is my courage.
I pursue my career
By not pursuing it!

Sources

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