Moscow. Conservatory Bolshoi Hall. Orchestra of the Moscow State Philharmonia. Conductor M. Shostakovich.
1969. Score, “Muzyka” Publishers.
The hand-written score is in the archive of the composer’s family.
“I had long planned to write a work dedicated to the Jubilee of our Soviet State, but had not achieved it. Then a few months ago I was at the ‘Mosfilm’ studios where they were preparing for the re-release of an old film by the Vasiliev brothers, ‘Volochayevka Days’, for which I had written the music many years before. I felt that my ‘Partisan Song’ had turned out quite successfully. The film reminded me of it and utterly unexpectedly the whole of the Poem then fell into place. I sat down to write. I re-wrote the main theme, filled with intonations from revolutionary songs and used as the second theme for the Poem the ‘Partisans’ Song’. I did a significant re-working of both. The result was a major symphonic work lasting 12-13 minutes. “
Symphonic Poem for Orchestra
The symphonic poem ‘October’ was written in the summer of 1967.
In the autumn of 1967 the whole country was getting ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Great October Revolution. Several cultural events were organised for the anniversary date, in particular, Days of Culture and Art of the RSFSR held in Moscow from 21 to 29 September, Music of Soviet Russia concerts in Leningrad (end of September-beginning of October), and a Week of Soviet Music in Moscow (from 17 to 24 October). During these events, many premieres of the works of Soviet composers were held, including the first performance of Shostakovich’s ‘October’.
Several different ensembles performed the new symphonic poem during the premiere series of concerts. At the first of them, on 16 September in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, ‘October’ was performed by the USSR State Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maksim Shostakovich.
Following the premiere on 21 September, the ‘October’ poem was performed at the opening of Days of Culture and Art of the RSFSR in the Kremlin Theatre in Moscow; Maksim Shostakovich was conducting now the Symphony Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre. On 26 September, in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, the poem was performed by a third orchestra—the Symphony Orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic conducted by Kirill Kondrashin. The same orchestra and conductor performed the poem on 17 October in the Grand Hall of the Conservatory at the opening of the Moscow Week of Soviet Music.
The poem was first performed in Leningrad on Shostakovich’s birthday, on 25 September 1967, in the Grand Hall of the Philharmonic (by the Grand Symphony Orchestra of All-Union Radio and Television under the baton of Maxim Shostakovich).
The symphonic poem was first published in a collotype version—the score came out almost at the same time as the premiere of the composition, in the autumn of 1967 (Muzfond, Moscow). In 1969, the poem was printed by Muzyka Publishers; later it was included in Volume 11 of Shostakovich’s Collected Works (Muzyka Publishers, Moscow, 1984). In 1977, Sovetsky Kompozitor Publishers put out an arrangement of ‘October’ for wind orchestra done by Daniil Braslavsky. The first foreign editions of the poem appeared at the same time as the Russian ones: in 1967, it was put out by two publishers—Japan-Soviet Music Inc. (full score) and Germany’s Hans Sikorski (orchestral parts). In 1972, ‘October’ was published by Peters.
The discography of Op. 131 is primarily represented by foreign recordings. The Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (conductor Heinz Rögner) and the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra (conductor Zdeněk Košler) were among the first to record the poem ‘October’ in 1977. As for Russian performers, the poem was recorded by Veronika Dudarova with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra (now the Moscow State Academic Symphony Orchestra).
- Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Batis E. 1990 // ASV DCA 707, 1990
- Norrköpings Symfoniorkester. Conductor: Hirokami U. 1993 // FHCE 2014 FUN HOUSE INC., 1993
- Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Jarvey N. 1988 // Deutsche Grammophon DG 427 616-2, 1989