The Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93 by Dmitri Shostakovich was premiered by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra under Yevgeny Mravinsky on 17 December 1953, following the death of Joseph Stalin in March of that year. It is not clear when it was written: according to the composer's letters composition was between July and October 1953, but Tatiana Nikolayeva stated that it was completed in 1951. Sketches for some of the material date from 1946.
The symphony is scored for three flutes (first flute with B foot extension, second and third flutes doubling piccolo), three oboes (third doubling cor anglais), three clarinets (third doubling E-flat clarinet), three bassoons (third doubling contrabassoon), four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, snare drum, triangle, cymbals, tambourine, tam-tam, xylophone, and strings.
The symphony has four movements and a duration of approximately 50 minutes:
This symphony was Shostakovich's first symphonic work since his second denunciation in 1948. It thus has a significance somewhat comparable to that of the Fifth Symphony in relation to the 1936 first denunciation. In content and structure, the 10th Symphony is an example of Shostakovich’s synthesis of allusions to the symphonic tradition on the one hand, and encoded references to his own particular time and place on the other.[according to whom?]
The first and longest movement is a slow movement in rough sonata form. As in his Fifth Symphony, Shostakovich quotes from one of his settings of Pushkin: in the first movement, from the second of his Op. 91: Four Monologues on Verses by Pushkin for bass and piano (1952), entitled "What is in My Name?". This theme of personal identity is picked up again in the third and fourth movements.
I did depict Stalin in my next symphony, the Tenth. I wrote it right after Stalin's death and no one has yet guessed what the symphony is about. It's about Stalin and the Stalin years. The second part, the scherzo, is a musical portrait of Stalin, roughly speaking. Of course, there are many other things in it, but that's the basis.
However, Shostakovich biographer Laurel Fay wrote, "I have found no corroboration that such a specific program was either intended or perceived at the time of composition and first performance." Musicologist Richard Taruskin called the proposition a "dubious revelation, which no one had previously suspected either in Russia or in the West". Elizabeth Wilson adds: "The Tenth Symphony is often read as the composer’s commentary on the recent Stalinist era. But as so often in Shostakovich’s art, the exposition of external events is counter-opposed to the private world of his innermost feelings."
At concert pitch one fifth lower, the notes spell out "E La Mi Re A" in a combination of French and German notation. This motif, called out twelve times on the horn, represents Elmira Nazirova, a student of the composer with whom he fell in love. The motif is of ambiguous tonality, giving it an air of uncertainty or hollowness.
In a letter to Nazirova, Shostakovich himself noted the similarity of the motif to the ape call in the first movement of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, a work which he had been listening to around that time: (listen (help·info))
The same notes are used in both motifs, and both are repeatedly played by the horn. In the Chinese poem set by Mahler, the ape is a representation of death, while the Elmira motif itself occurs together with the "funeral knell" of a tam tam. There is also more than a passing resemblance of this motif to the slow fanfare theme in the finale of Sibelius's Fifth Symphony; similar instrumentation (horns, woodwinds) is used for the Elmira motif here as in the Sibelius work. Over the course of the movement, the DSCH and Elmira themes alternate and gradually draw closer.
The third movement is a moderate dance-like suite of Mahlerian Nachtmusik – or Nocturne, which is what Shostakovich called it.
In the fourth and final movement, a naively happy tune at a slow andante pace (again heavily influenced by Mahler) that suddenly changes into a fast finale that has the pace of a doom-laden Gopak, which recalls the second movement theme. The fast theme is in turn defeated by the triumphant DSCH theme, which is repeated with increasing agitation through the frantic conclusion. The coda effects a transition to E Major, and at the very end, several instruments have a glissando from an E to the next E.
The 10th Symphony is automatically linked to many of Shostakovich’s other works such as the Cello Concerto No. 1 (1959) and notably the String Quartet No. 8 (1960) because of the use of the DSCH-motif. The DSCH-motif is anticipated throughout the first movement of the 10th Symphony: In the 7th bar of the start of the symphony the violins doubled by the violas play a D for 5 bars which is then directly followed by an E♭; 9 bars before rehearsal mark 29 the violins play the motif in an inverted order D-C-H-S (or D-C-B-E♭). The first time the motif is heard in its correct order in the whole symphony is in the 3rd movement, right after a short canon on the beginning melody starting from the 3rd beat of the 5th bar after rehearsal mark 104 (Fig. 11) where it is played in unison by the piccolo, the 1st flute and the 1st oboe (compassing a range of three octaves).
Recordings of this symphony include:
- Wilson, Elizabeth (1994) p. 262. Shostakovich: A Life Remembered. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-04465-1.
- Volkov, Solomon (2004). Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich. p. 141. ISBN 9780879109981. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- Fay, Laurel E. (2000). Shostakovich: A Life. p. 327 note 14. ISBN 9780195134384. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- Taruskin, Richard (2 December 2008). On Russian Music. p. 327. ISBN 9780520942806. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- Shostakovich: A Life Remembered, Elizabeth Wilson, p. 305
- Nelly Kravetz, New Insight into the Tenth Symphony, p. 162. In Bartlett, R. (ed) Shostakovich in Context.
- Kravetz p. 163.
- Kravetz p. 162.
- "Shostakovich*, Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra Of New York*, Dimitri Mitropoulos – Symphony No. 10 In E Minor, Op. 93". Discogs. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
- "SHOSTAKOVICH 10. Symphonie / Karajan 1966 – 1 LP". Retrieved 28 December 2020.
- "SHOSTAKOVICH 10. Symphonie / Karajan 1981 – CD reissue 2006 / Download – Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft". deutschegrammophon.com. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
- "Prom 43 – Prom 43". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
- "Classical CDs of the week reviews: Shostakovich, Schubert and more..." The Daily Telegraph. 23 August 2016. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
- London Shostakovich Orchestra
- Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony: The Azerbaijani Link – Elmira Nazirova, by Aida Huseinova, Azerbaijan International Vol. 11:1 (Spring 2003), pp. 54–59.
- Melodic Signatures in Shostakovich's 10th Symphony, by Aida Huseinova, Azerbaijan International, Vol. 11:1 (Spring 2003), p. 57.
- Shostakovich's muse, by Noam Ben-Zeev, Ha'aretz, 2 April 2007
- Second movement played by Venezuela's Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra