“The Sun shines over our Motherland”
Moscow. Great Hall of the Conservatoire. Conductor K. Ivanov
Score published by "Muzgiz" Publishers in 1953.
Hand-written score is in the RNMM (Stack 32, Item 55). Authorized score and also the corrected score in the Russian State Archive for Literature and Art (Stack 653, Inv. 6, Item 18).
The Sun Shines Over Our Motherland
Cantata for boys' choir, mixed chorus and symphony orchestra.
Words by Y. Dolmatovsky
At the end of the 1940s-beginning of the 1950s, a new cantata-oratorio genre appeared in Dmitri Shostakovich’s oeuvre, represented by two compositions—the oratorio “The Song of the Forests”, Op. 81 (1949), and the cantata "The Sun Shines Over Our Motherland”, Op. 90 (1952). The composer was forced to write music in this format by the conditions of the times: the composers were required to write on current topics in a “realistic” musical language that had to be simple, expressive and understandable to the mass audience. It stands to reason that musical compositions with words, primarily involving large choral forces, became especially popular. At that time, the cantata and oratorio appeared as “the main conveyors of totalitarian ideology and mythology”, “creating an aesthetic contrast to modernism and formalism”, and were approved as the leading genre of Soviet music.
The idea for the cantata “The Sun Shines Over Our Motherland” evidently arose in the autumn of 1950. Shostakovich intended writing a choral composition in the same oratorio genre as “The Song of the Forests”. However, writing the oratorio was postponed.
According to Sofya Khentova, Shostakovich returned to the cantata in the summer of 1952, while he was staying at the dacha in Komarovo (the date work began on the cantata is not given in the author’s manuscripts).
Shostakovich initially called his new composition “Cantata about the Party”, which features in the manuscript of the score; it also appeared with the same title in an announcement in Sovetskoe iskusstvo on the eve of the premiere. According to certain reviewers, the cantata was written to coincide with the 19th CPSU Congress, which was held in Moscow from 5 to 14 October 1952 for the first time after a 13-year hiatus. Later, Shostakovich discarded the name “Cantata about the Party” and replaced it with the words from the first line of the composition; the score was sent to press with the title “The Sun Shines Over Our Motherland” in December 1952.
The available information does not allow to establish for certain the date of the cantata’s premiere. Sofya Khentova’s book, as well as several other references, gives 6 November 1952 as the date of the first performance. However, the announcement in the newspaper Sovetskoe iskusstvo reported that the cantata would be first heard in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory on 7 November. Shostakovich’s Diary also has a note about the upcoming concert on 7 November (“At 20.30 concert in the G.H.”), while on 6 November there is only an entry about a rehearsal (“At 11 rehearsal in the G.H.”). There is no programme booklet or poster of the cantata’s first performance in Dmitri Shostakovich’s Archive.
After the premiere, Shostakovich’s new choral composition quickly became part of the repertoire and in the 1950s-1960s, it was often performed in Moscow and Leningrad under the baton of outstanding conductors— Samuil Samosud, Aleksandr Melik-Pashayev, Karl Eliasberg, Arvīds Jansons, Boris Khaikin, Aleksandr Gauk, Eduard Grikurov, Kirill Kondrashin and others.