Conducted by by Paavo Järvi, hr-Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra) plays Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1 in F minor (Opus 10). Alte Oper Frankfurt, March 6, 2015.
Born in 1906, Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was a prodigious child as both pianist and composer. At the age of 19, Shostakovich wrote the work as his graduation piece at the Petrograd Conservatory. The symphony was written in 1924–1925, and first performed in Leningrad (currently Saint Petersburg) by the Leningrad Philharmonic under the famous Russian conductor Nikolai Malko on 12 May 1926. The premiere of the symphony was a huge success and a great beginning to his career. It was followed a year later by a performance by the Berlin Philharmonic and a year after that by the Philadelphia Orchestra.
The work has four movements (the last two being played without interruption):
- Allegretto – Allegro non troppo The work begins with an introductory Allegretto section, which is developed from a duet between solo trumpet and bassoon. This leads into the first subject proper, a lively march-like Allegro reminiscent of the vaudeville and theatre music Shostakovich would have encountered during his time as a cinema pianist. The second subject is ostensibly a waltz, but is in fact written in double-time, the flute melody finding its way round several sections of the orchestra. The development section features a return to mock-comic grotesqueries, although the sonata-form structure of this movement is entirely conventional.
- Allegro – Meno mosso – Allegro – Meno mosso In the second movement we are presented with a ‘false start’ in the cellos and basses before a frantic scherzo begins with the clarinet. The piano features for the first time with rapid scalic runs before a more sombre mood develops in the Meno mosso section. Once again Shostakovich writes a triple-time passage in two, with melodies being passed through the flutes, clarinets, strings, oboes, piccolos, and the clarinets again, while the strings and triangle play in the background. The bassoon brings us back to the Allegro of the opening. The climax occurs with a combination of the two melodies presented earlier in the movement followed by a coda which is announced by widely spaced chords from the piano and violin harmonics.
- Lento – Largo – Lento (attacca:) The third movement begins with a dark oboe solo transferring to a cello solo, and proceeds to develop into a crescendo, featuring a quotation from Wagner’s Siegfried. There is also a pianissimo passage for the strings which anticipates the passacaglia from the Eighth Symphony.
- Allegro molto – Lento – Allegro molto – Meno mosso – Allegro molto – Molto meno mosso – Adagio There is a drum roll attacca from the third movement into the fourth. After another sombre passage, the music suddenly enters the Allegro molto section with a very fast melody on the clarinet and strings. This reaches a furious climax, after which calm descends and we hear another Wagner quotation. The following Allegro section culminates in a fortissimo timpani solo, a rhythmic motif which featured in the third movement. A passage for solo cello and muted strings cleverly uses this motif along with several other elements, leading into a coda section which ends the work with rousing fanfare-like figures from the brass.