Friday, July 6, 2012

Shostakovich: Tenth Symphony (Mitropoulos)

Cover photograph by Howard Zieff
Today I present the first recording made in the West of one of Shostakovich's greatest symphonies, the Tenth, by the great Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896-1960).  And it remains one of the most searingly intense, with the fastest second movement on record.  Mitropoulos would, of course, have had no way of knowing that this movement was Shostakovich's musical portrait of Stalin (as the composer admitted in his memoirs), and more's the wonder, for the performance blazes with rage like no other I've heard.  The third movement, which has always seemed to me like Shostakovich's own self-portrait (that D-S-C-H motto!), is also on the brisk side, and gains a special urgency thereby.

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of N.Y. conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos
Recorded October 18, 1954
Columbia Masterworks ML-4959, one 12-inch LP record
Link (FLAC files, 132.27 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 63.92)

I can't pass up the opportunity to comment on the rather startling cover for this LP (pictured above).  Charles Burr, in his liner note for ML-4959 (which is for the most part a long essay about the relationship of the Soviet composer to the Soviet government), says of the conclusion of the symphony that "there is an escape from tragedy back into the happiness of childhood, for it is only childhood that permits the dwelling once again in personal, non-political emotions." And yet the cover photograph displays a kid who doesn't look very happy to me! while behind him a faceless figure - obviously one of authority - stands in a displeased pose with arms crossed.  If this isn't a metaphor for the relationship of the composer to the state, I don't know what is.  This photograph was taken by Howard Zieff, later to become a film director, whose credits in that arena include "My Girl" and "Private Benjamin."


  1. Thank you! Wonderful to hear such a seminal work performed less than a year after its première.
    I think I hear the DSCH theme in more and more of Shostakovich's works. Probably in places where it isn't even there - you know, just by auto-suggestion.
    BTW, as for the perhaps too often talked about political aspects of DSCH's career, have you seen this lovely pic I came across in Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise? It's from 1949, when Shostakovich attended a Soviet-organized peace conference in the U.S. and the guy in the picture was encouraging him to defect to the West.

  2. Still one of the greatest recorded versions of this symphony. Thanks for posting. I still have a near mint LP copy I purchased over 50 years ago.
    Ray Pratt, Bozeman, Montana.

  3. Great sound on this! Excellent work. Many thanks(just listened again).