The Symphony No. 10 in E minor (Op. 93) by Dmitri Shostakovich was premiered by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra under Yevgeny Mravinsky on 17 December 1953, following the death of Joseph Stalin in March of that year. It is not clear when it was written: according to the composer's letters composition was between July and October 1953, but Tatiana Nikolayeva stated that it was completed in 1951. Sketches for some of the material date from 1946.[1]


 [hide*1 Instrumentation


The symphony is scored for two flutes and piccolo (second flute doubling second piccolo), three oboes (third doubling English horn), three clarinets (third doubling E-flat clarinet), three bassoons (third doubling contrabassoon), four horns, three trumpets. three trombonestubatimpanibass drumsnare drumtrianglecymbalstambourinetam-tamxylophone, and strings.


The symphony has four movements:

  1. Moderato
  2. Allegro
  3. Allegretto
  4. Andante - Allegro

In content and structure, the 10th Symphony is an example of Shostakovich’s synthesis of allusions to the symphonic tradition on the one hand, and encoded references to his own particular time and place on the other[according to whom?]. The first and longest movement is a slow movement in rough sonata form; the second a fast scherzo with syncopated rhythms and endlessly furious semiquaver (sixteenth note) passages; the third a moderate dance-like suite of Mahlerian Nachtmusik - or Nocturne, which is what Shostakovich called it; and the fourth a slow andante (again heavily influenced by Mahler) that suddenly changes into a fast finale that has the pace of a doom-ladenGopak.[citation needed]

It was Shostakovich's first symphonic work since his denunciation in 1948. It thus has a significance somewhat comparable to that of the Fifth Symphony in relation to the 1936 denunciation. As in that work, he quotes from one of his settings of Pushkin: in the first movement, from the second of his Four Pushkin Monologues, entitled "What is in My Name?". This theme of personal identity is picked up again in the third and fourth movements. The second movement is a short and violent scherzo, described in Testimony as "a musical portrait of Stalin, roughly speaking".[citation needed] However, according to musicologist Richard Taruskin, this proposition is a "dubious revelation, which no one had previously suspected either in Russia or in the West".[citation needed] The third movement is a nocturne built around two musical codes: the DSCH theme representing Shostakovich, and the Elmira theme ([1] listen (help·info)):


At concert pitch one fifth lower, the notes spell out "E La Mi Re A" in a combination of French and German notation. This motif, called out twelve times on the horn, represents Elmira Nazirova, a student of the composer's with whom he fell in love. The motif is of ambiguous tonality, giving it an air of uncertainty or hollowness.[2]

In a letter to Nazirova, Shostakovich himself noted the similarity of the motif to the ape call in the first movement of Das Lied von der Erde, a work which he had been listening to around that time:[3] ([3] listen (help·info))


The same notes are used in both motifs, and both are repeatedly played by the horn. In the Chinese poem set by Mahler, the ape is a representation of death, while the Elmira motif itself occurs together with the "funeral knell" of a tam tam.[4] Over the course of the movement, the DSCH and Elmira themes alternate and gradually draw closer. In the final movement, a naively happy tune is displaced by a gopak,[citation needed] which recalls the second movement theme. It is in turn defeated by the triumphant DSCH theme, which is repeated with increasing agitation through the frantic conclusion. A little bit before the end it changes to E Major, and at the very end, several instruments have a glissando from an E to the next E.

The 10th symphony is automatically linked to many of Shostakovich’s other works such as the Cello Concerto No. 1 (1959) and notably the String Quartet No. 8 (1960) because of the use of the DSCH-motif. The DSCH-motif is anticipated throughout the first movement of the 10th symphony: In the 7th bar of the start of the symphony the violins doubled by the violas play a D for 5 bars which is then directly followed by an E; 9 bars before r.m. 29 the violins play the motif in an inverted order D-C-H-S (or D-C-B-E). The first time the motif is heard in its correct order in the whole symphony is in the 3rd movement, right after a short canon on the beginning melody starting from the 3rd beat of the 5th bar after r.m.104 (Fig.11) where it is played in unison by the piccolo, the 1st flute and the 1st oboe (compassing a range of three octaves).

Notable recordings[edit]Edit

Recordings of this symphony include:

Orchestra Conductor Record Company Year of Recording Format
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Herbert von Karajan DG Two recordings: ca. 1960 & ca. 1980 CD
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra Yevgeny Mravinsky Melodiya 1976 live CD
BRT Philharmonic Orchestra Alexander Rahbari Naxos 1989 CD
London Philharmonic Orchestra Bernard Haitink Decca 1977 CD
London Philharmonic Orchestra Bernard Haitink LPO 1986 live CD[5]
Philadelphia Orchestra Mariss Jansons EMI Classics 1994 CD
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Frank Shipway Royal Philharmonic Masterworks 2009 [6]
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.