Anthem of the Soviet Union for Choir and Symphony Orchestra
DSCH Publishers, Moscow, 2017
RSALA, rec. gr. 2048, inv. 1, f. 37 (copy in Dmitri Shostakovich’s Archive, rec. gr. 2, section 1, f. 202).
Anthem of the Soviet Union
The manuscripts of several versions of the anthem are kept in Dmitri Shostakovich’s archive. Some of them are titled Anthem of the Soviet Union; the others have no names.
The first stage of the work on the anthem began in the summer of 1942, when the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 was in full swing, and continued until may 1943. Out of the 27 texts offered by the poets for the national anthem, Shostakovich chose Yevgeni Dolmatovsky’s.
This first version of the anthem, written in G major for mixed choir and symphony orchestra, has survived as a fair piano score and a fair full score. Both author’s manuscripts are titled Anthem of the Soviet Union.
On 18 June 1943, Shostakovich, along with other composers and poets, attended the meeting organised by kliment voroshilov and aleksandr Shcherbakov regarding further work on the anthem. A decision was made to set a deadline of three months for the composers to submit their music for the anthem.
Between this time and 11 august 1943, Shostakovich wrote the second version with different music and in a different key (E flat major). In the new version, he used the lyrics of Gabriel El-registan and Sergei mikhalkov.
On 11 august 1943, Shostakovich performed the new version of the anthem in the Beethoven Hall of the Bolshoi Theatre to a state commission composed of Kliment Voroshilov, Aleksandr Shcherbakov, Mikhail Khrapchenko, Aleksandr Fadeyev and Vasiliy Lebedev-Kumach.
The second, E flat major, version of Shostakovich’s anthem underwent some changes. Primarily, the music was changed in keeping with corrections Kliment Voroshilov and Joseph Stalin made to Sergei Mikhalkov and Gabriel El-Registan’s lyrics after their official approval on 20 September 1943. The composer tried to change the music to a different key (F major) and modify the last six bars, which was recorded in one of the sketches.21 Then a refrain was introduced in the verbal text; the number of its stanzas was first reduced to two and then increased to three.
Shostakovich documented these two new versions (with two and three stanzas) in the score and in the parts. Shostakovich documented these two new versions (with two and three stanzas) in the score and in the parts. They were collotyped and performed by the symphony orchestra and choir of the Bolshoi Theatre on 28 october 1943 at another hearing in the Beethoven Hall of the Bolshoi Theatre (Joseph Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Mikhail Khrapchenko, Kliment Voroshilov and Aleksandr Shcherbakov were present). However, at the end of the hearing, all the versions of the anthem were again said to be unsatisfactory.
Then Shostakovich was asked to compose yet another version of the anthem with Aram Khachaturian to Mikhalkov and El-Registan’s officially approved lyrics with a new refrain.
The new version of the anthem was performed at the last hearing at the beginning of December 1943, where the three best anthems were selected: Shostakovich-Khachaturian, Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Iona Tuskiya. All the pieces were performed by the Symphony Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre and the Aleksandr Aleksandrov choir conducted by Aleksandr Melik-Pashayev in three formats: choral, orchestral and orchestral-choral. Stalin decided in favour of Aleksandrov. Official approval of the new national music symbol of the Soviet Union took place on 14 December 1943.
Even though Shostakovich’s versions of the anthem were repeatedly called the best, the commission ended up not officially approving them.
We have been unable to find any information on further performances of Shostakovich’s Anthem of the USSR. However, the music of the first bars of the second
version of the anthem became the basis for one of Shostakovich’s later orchestral works ‘The Novorossiysk Chimes’ (1960).