“The Song of the Forests”. Oratorio
Leningrad. The Great Hall of the Philharmonia. State Academic Choir Capella. The Boys' Choir of the Capella. Conductor. Y. Mravinsky.
1959. Score "Muzgiz" Publishers, Moscow.
The hand-written score is in the Russian State Archive for Literature and Art (Stack 653, Inv. 3, Item 11); Proofs with the composer's corrections (Stack 2048, Inv.1, Item 41).
The Song of the Forests
Oratorio for Soloists (Tenor and Bass), a Boys' Choir, a Mixed Choir and
Symphony Orchestra with Words by Y. Dolmatovsky.
The oratorio The Song of the Forests was written quickly; however, it is difficult to establish the exact time it was composed. As mentioned above, at the end of July 1949, work had already begun on it, and by 15 August, according to the dates in the author’s manuscripts, it was finished.
The oratorio consists of seven movements:
1. ‘When the War Was over’ (bass soloist with mixed choir and orchestra, Andante);
2. ‘Clothe the Homeland in Forests’ (mixed choir and orchestra, Allegro);
3. ‘recollection of the Past’(bass soloist with mixed choir and orchestra, Adagio);
4. ‘Pioneers Plant the Forests’ (boys’ choir and orchestra, Allegretto). attacca;
5. ‘Stalingraders Go Forward’ (mixed choir and orchestra, Allegro con brio);
6. ‘A Walk into the Future’ (tenor soloist with mixed choir and orchestra, Adagio);
7. ‘Glory’ (orchestral-choral fugue and finale with participation of all the performers, Allegretto-Moderato-Moderato con moto-Andante).
The premiere of Dmitri Shostakovich’s oratorio The Song of the forests was held in the Grand Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic on 15 November 1949 conducted by Yevgeni Mravinsky. The performers included the Choir of the Leningrad Academy Cappella directed by Georgi Dmitrevsky, choir soloist Ivan Tyatov and singer from the Kirov Leningrad State Theatre of Opera and Ballet Vladimir Ivanovsky, the boys’ choir from the Academy Cappella, and the Honoured Republican Collective of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. The second performance of the oratorio featuring the same musicians was held the next day, on 16 November.
The work’s Moscow premiere was held on 26 November of the same year in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, again conducted by Mravinsky, but with an enlarged cast. In addition to the participants in the world premiere, soloists Ivan Tyatov and Vladimir Ivanovsky, the following Moscow collectives also took part in it: the State Choir of Russian Song, the Moscow State Choral School Boys’ Choir directed by Aleksandr Sveshnikov and the USSR State Symphony Orchestra (chief conductor Konstantin Ivanov).
In 1950, oratorio The Song of the forests was awarded the Stalin prize (First Class) along with the music to the film The fall of Berlin directed by Mikhail Chiaureli and, in so doing, ranked as one of the top three in the hierarchy of Shostakovich’s oeuvre along with the Piano Quintet (awarded the Stalin prize [First Class] in 1941) and the Seventh Symphony (awarded the Stalin prize [First Class] in 1942). At the same time, in 1950, the score of the oratorio was published by Muzgiz. And a year later, a gramophone record was issued featuring The Song of the forests, conducted by Yevgeni Mravinsky.
The oratorio was first performed overseas on 4 November 1951 in San Francisco (California, USA) in an English translation done by Leo E. Christiansen.