On today’s date in 1966, the 60th birthday of composer Dimitri Shostakovich was celebrated at the Moscow Conservatory with a gala orchestral concert of his music. Cellist Mstislav Rostropovich gave the premiere performance of Shostakovich’s brand-new Second Cello Concerto, and the composer’s son, Maxim, conducted his father’s youthful Symphony No. 1 from 1926.
On the morning of the concert, it was announced that, for his outstanding services in the development of Soviet musical culture, the Central Committee had awarded Shostakovich the title “Hero of Socialist Labor,” along with the Order of Lenin and the gold medal “Hammer and Sickle.”
Ironically, earlier that year, Shostakovich had composed a self-deprecating parody piece for voice and piano titled “Preface to the Complete Edition of My Works and a Brief Reflection apropos of This Preface,” whose text included a deadpan recitation of just a small portion of the many honorific titles he had received and the imposing but meaningless official posts with which he had been honored — and now, he found, he had been awarded several more to boot!
All that must have seemed grimly comic to Shostakovich, who, some 30th years earlier, had written an opera which had so offended Joseph Stalin that the composer had come perilously close to disappearing without a trace into the Soviet prison system.
Music Played in Today's Program
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)Symphony No. 1, Op 10St. Petersburg Philharmonic; Yuri Temikanov, cond.BMG 68844
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)Cello concerto No. 2. Op 126Msistislav Rostropovich, cello; Boston Symphony; Seiji Ozawa, cond.DG 437 952