Works Chamber Compositions for Voice and Songs

Madrigal (Impromptu) to Words by M. Pravdin

Opus SO Opus 36

Opus SO
1933 year

Dmitri Shostakovich’s Vocal Compositions.
first publication:

Vol. 93 of New Collected Works. DSCH Publishers. Moscow. 2015.


Photocopy of the author’s manuscript. Dmitri Shostakovich’s Archive, Moscow—rec. gr. 2, section 1, f. 93.

Madrigal (Impromptu) to Words by M. Pravdin
For Tenor Soloist and Piano
Sans op.

     Shostakovich composed the jocular madrigal for tenor and piano with subtitle “‘Impromptu’ on 22 February 1933, which is shown by the date at the end of the manuscript. A copy of the author’s manuscript of this composition, along with an accompanying letter, was sent by Director of the Leningrad Branch of the USSR Music Foundation Pyotr Radchik to the composer’s wife Irina Antonovna Shostakovich In his letter, Radchik pointed out that this composition was earlier unknown and had never been published. It also followed from the letter that Radchik had acquired the author’s manuscript of ‘Madrigal”’, but he did not say who the owner was or where the manuscript had previously been kept.
     We do not know the purpose of this work or how it was composed; nor does Shostakovich mention it in his correspondence of the 1930s. It is possible that the composition was supposed to be a light-hearted New Year’s farce—at the end of the author’s manuscript are the congratulatory words, ‘With best wishes for a Happy New Year’, and the old and new year are mentioned in the actual verse of the madrigal (‘The old year has cooled off, while the new is warming up’).
     All the characters who feature in the verse of the madrigal had something to do with the administration of the Leningrad Academic Maly Opera Theatre (MALEGOT), at which Shostakovich’s operas The Nose (1930) and Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (1934), as well as the ballet The Limpid Stream (1935) were staged for the first time in the 1930s. According to Radchik’s letter, M. Pravdin (the author of the words) was the theatre’s chief administrator in those years, S. Zinkovsky was the head of the financial department, M. Fitingof was the chief accountant and Lyubov Elyevna was the administration’s secretary. In all likelihood, the composition was initiated by Zinkovsky, as the composer wrote in the author’s manuscript: ‘Words by M. Pravdin, music by D. Shostakovich, idea by S. Zinkovsky.’ Radchik’s letter does not disclose the identity of the other characters of the madrigal (‘Petrov and Zina’).