Shostakovich Complete Songs Volume 3
Early Works

Victoria Evtodieva, soprano 

Liudmila Shkirtil, mezzo-soprano 
Mikhail Lukonin, baritone 
Fyodor Kuznetsov, bass 
Yuri Serov, piano 
Delos adds to its acclaimed Russian Songs Series with the third volume of the Shostakovich Complete Song Collection, Dmitri Shostakovich Early Works, 1922-1942. Critical responses to the first two installments of this series have been unprecedented. Gramophone magazine called the new series “A winner!” BBC Magazine awarded the first two releases four stars for both performance and sound. International Record Review concluded that the Shostakovich series adds up to “a true testament to a musician who remained his own man despite the worst the state might threaten him with.” The twenty one song entries in this third volume were all composed between 1922 and 1942, the first when Shostakovich was only 16, the last during the second World War when he was still a relatively youthful 36. During this twenty year period Shostakovich had experienced post-revolution near-starvation, had triumphed in the mid ’30s with his early symphonies and his daring opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, had been denounced by Stalin, ostracized by his colleagues, restored to favor with his 5th Symphony, and finally succeeded in achieving an uneasy balance between his own integrity as an artist and the compromises he had to make to meet the state’s demands for conformity. Then came World War II and the German invasion of Russia in 1941… certainly a kaleidoscopic two decades reflected to some degree in the diversity of these songs. The first songs, Two Fables by Ivan Krylov, were ideal material for the youthful Shostakovich’s use of irony, narrative utterance and his unique contrasting of musical images. The teen-aged artist was surely amused, filling these tiny musical scores with donkey braying, nightingale trills, and with abrupt leaps in harmony and rhythm. The Six Romances on Lyrics by Japanese Poets, composed at the same time Shostakovich was working on his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, are dedicated to his soon-to-be wife Nina Varza, and reflect his youthful passion. It has been said “he desired to deliver the love theme in a new way… a love that knew no bounds.” These songs do not contain anything superficial or showy. Though outspokenly erotic, the love messages more often than not are permeated with motives of despair and death. Four Romances on Words by Alexander?Pushkin are a tribute for the 100th anniversary of the poet’s death (Jan. 10, 1937). The use of Pushkin’s harmonious, wise and classically perfect poetry served Shostakovich as a kind of creative refuge during the terrible period of his persecution by the government and betrayal by even close friends. Indirectly, through Pushkin’s verse, he was able to speak out concerning the true aims of art and eternal questions of life and death. Shostakovich’s theater music has artistic value and importance far exceeding its popularity. Much of it remains little known, some of it is lost forever. Ophelia’s Song from a 1932 production of Hamlet and two selections from a 1941 production of King Lear are vivid examples of Shostakovich’s theatrical style of the thirties and forties. To quote Shostakovich himself, “Shakespeare’s tragedies are amazingly musical in themselves… music is born out of the very poetry and dynamic of these tragedies.” Shostakovich’s unique individuality is manifest in the dramatic sculpturing of the images and in the animated vocal intonations. The final group of Six Romances on Verses of Walter Raleigh, Robert Burns, and William Shakespeare date from 1942 wartime, a period when it seemed quite appropriate for a Russian composer to use English verse – Great Britain being an ally in the war against Hitler. The fatherly advice in the Raleigh poem, the populist sentiments in the Burns, and the profound thoughts embedded in Shakespeare’s Sonnet LXVI, are capped by the final two-line King’s Campaign (a folk song adaptation), lightening with a momentary bright sparkle the darkness of the preceding Sonnet. The Delos Russian Vocal Series is the creation of Yuri Serov, pianist and professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and a foremost authority on Russian vocal music past and present. Each installment in the series offers the complete songs and romances of the composer represented. Already available are the first two volumes of the complete Shostakovich songs (DE 3304 & DE 3307), the first complete collection of Prokofiev songs and romances (DE 3275, 3 CDs), and the complete songs and romances of Borodin (DE 3277). Future releases, in addition to the Shostakovich, will include collections by Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov.
  • Two Fables by Ivan Krylov, Op. 4 (1921-1922) 
  • The Dragon-Fly and the Ant – The Donkey and the Nightingale Six Romances on Lyrics by Japanese Poets, Op. 21 (1928-1932) 
  • Love – Before the Suicide – An Immodest Glance – The First and the Last Time – Hopeless Love – Death Four Romances on Words by Alexander Pushkin, Op. 46 (1936) 
  • Renaissance – Weeping Bitterly, a Jealous Maid Reproached a Young Man – Anticipation – Stanzas from Music for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Op. 32 (1932) 
  • Ophelia’s Song (Russian version by Samuil Marshak) from Music for Shakespeare’s King Lear, Op. 58 (1940) 
  • Cordelia’s Ballad – The Fool’s Songs (Russian versions by Samuil Marshak) Six Romances on Verses of Walter Raleigh, Robert Burns, and William Shakespeare, Op. 62 (1942) 
  • Sir Walter Raleigh To His Sonne (words by Walter Raleigh; Russian translation by Boris Pasternak) 
  • Oh Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast (words by Robert Burns; Russian translation by Samuil Marshak) 
  • Macpherson’s Farewell (words by Robert Burns; Russian translation by Samuil Marshak) 
  • Jenny (words by Robert Burns; Russian translation by Samuil Marshak) 
  • Sonnet LXVI by William Shakespeare (Russian translation by Boris Pasternak) 
  • The King’s Campaign (after the nursery rhyme The Grand Old Duke Of York; Russian translation by Samuil Marshak)