Seven Poems by Alexander Blok
Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire. Performers: G. Vishnevskaya, D. Oistrakh, M. Rostropovich and the author.
1969. “Sovietskii kompozitor” Publishers, Moscow.
The hand-written score is in the archive of the composer’s family.
“In recent months I have been working a great deal. I began by writing seven romances for soprano accompanied by a piano trio to words by Blok. I selected ‘Ophelia’s Song’, ‘Gamayun, Bird of Prophecy’, ‘That Troubled Night’ , ‘Deep in Sleep’ and others. To the seventh and last romance I myself gave the title ‘Music’, because the text is about it. I want to give the same title to the whole cycle, because it is written to very musical words....”
Seven Poems by Alexander Blok
for Soprano, Violin, Cello and Piano
The seven romances on poems by Alexander Blok were written in the winter 1966/67. Shostakovich knew and highly appraised Blok’s poetry from an early age. But Shostakovich did not use Blok in his creative work until his later years.
The literature does not give any precise information about the time work began on this composition. So it is dated according to the time it was finished and relates to 1967. But, the rough draft is marked with the date the last part of the cycle was completed: 19 December 1966. The work was finished on 3 February 1967.
The premiere of Seven Poems by Alexander Blok was held in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory on 23 october 1967. It was performed by Galina Vishnevskaya, David Oistrakh, Mstislav Rostropovich and composer Moisey Vainberg (piano). The premiere was a huge success, and, at the audience’s request, the cycle was played again in its entirety.
The composer decided to ask Leningrad singer Nadezhda Yureneva to perform for the premiere of the cycle in Leningrad. She performed the romances on 17 April 1968 in the Small Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic in an ensemble with Boris Gutnikov (violin), Anatoli Nikitin (violoncello), and Maria Karandashova (piano).
On 4 September 1968, Vishnevskaya, Oistrakh, Rostropovich, and Evgeny Svetlanov (piano) performed the cycle for the first time at Royal Festival Hall in London.
Seven Poems by Alexander Blok is dedicated to Galina Vishnevskaya. The first publication of the cycle came out in 1969. In Volume 33 of Shostakovich’s Collected Works (Muzyka Publishers, Moscow, 1984), the work is printed without the dedication, which was removed by the censors.
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