Piano Sonata No. 2
Moscow, Small Hall of the Conservatoire. Performed by the author.
1943, “Muzgiz” Publishers, Moscow.
Hand-written score in the RNMM (Stack 32, Item 79)
Piano Sonata No. 2
Initially, until 1966, the Sonata was assigned opus number 64. Shostakovich dedicated it to the memory of pianist and composer Leonid Nikolayev, one of his conservatory professors. This composition came a decade after the previous solo piano opus—cycle of 24 Preludes, Op. 34. According to the author’s comments in the fair manuscript, the first movement of the Sonata was finished on 18 February 1943, the second on 3 March 1943 in Kuibyshev (where the composer was in evacuation) and the third on 17 March of the same year at Archangelskoye near Moscow.
After he finished the Sonata, Shostakovich performed it on 12 April 1943 at the Arts Committee, three days later at the House of Composers, and at the beginning of May at the Soviet Information Bureau. The Sonata’s philharmonic premiere was held on 6 June 1943 in the Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatory at Shostakovich’s recital. The following season, the composer performed his new work at a recital at the House of Scientists on 27 November 1943.
In general, the reaction to the Sonata was ambiguous. There were no specific reviews about the Sonata in the Soviet press and for a long time it was only mentioned among compositions with a ‘military subject matter’.
According to the order of the Main Office for Monitoring Performances and Repertoire (a subdivision of the Committee for Art Affairs under the USSR Council of Ministers), issued on 14 February 1948, the repertoire of concert organisations was re-examined and several ‘formalistic’ compositions were removed. The resolution went into force on 5 March 1949. Shostakovich’s Second Sonata was among the prohibited compositions. However, as soon as 16 March, the prohibition was lifted. The government resolution was reexamined after Stalin phoned Shostakovich to ask why he was refusing to go to a congress of scientists and cultural figures in the USA as part of the Soviet delegation. The composer said that the reason for his decision was that his works, like those of several of his colleagues, had been blacklisted and this could create an uncomfortable situation at the congress. Stalin expressed surprise about the resolution of the Committee of the Main Office for Monitoring Performances and Repertoire and soon signed a Council of Ministers resolution on cancellation of the February order.