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Shostakovich Passacaglia from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Dee Surtees

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I was wondering if anyone could enlighten me regarding the origins of this piece, Shostakovich’s only work for organ. It is frequently described as an organ arrangement of the interlude from Lady Macbeth. But I have also heard that the piece was originally written for organ, as the theatre in Leningrad where it was premiered had an organ; and only subsequently orchestrated. Does anyone know which is true?

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Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District was first performed, in 1932 in the Leningrad Maily Operni - the Maniinsky Theatre. My recollection is that there is no organ in there but there is an organ in the concert hall next door which is part of the complex. The second performance took place two days later in Moscow.

The Passacaglia from the Ent'racte was arranged by Shostakovitch for organ - so my reading of it is that the orchestration came first. Shostakovitch also arranged music from the opera (Op. 29) into an Orchestral Suite - the Op. 29a.


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This excerpt should give the information needed.

https://books.google.de/books?id=OYcuZ1eylRwC&lpg=PA168&dq=shostakovich passacaglia macbeth&hl=de&pg=PA167#v=onepage&q&f=false

Pages 167-168


According to the 'Notes' in the Sikorski edition, significant musical alterations, too, were made between the 1932 and 1935 editions. For instance: ‚The stirring passacaglia between the fourth and fifth scenes was replaced by a moderated version played by the organ'. In fact, the music which appears in the 1932 piano-vocal score (Sikorski Ed. 2313) and in the 1935 piano-vocal score - scored on three staves as for organ, but with intermittent indications of instrumentation - is identical.25 In GLINKA-271, both versions are bound into the score. The organ passacaglia (figs. 284-94) appears first and the orchestrated version (figs. 284-94 repeated) has been interpolated between the last page of the organ solo and the continuation of the opera, i.e. it has been added later. In the second volume of GLINKA-284, organ and orchestral versions were bound successively with rehearsal numbers repeated and the organ solo was later crossed out in pencil. In his review of the first production of the opera, Ivan Sollertinsky stated explicitly that this instrumental interlude was originally written for organ.26

On 17 January 1933, less than a month after the completion of Act IV of Lady Macbeth, the organ passacaglia was performed in an all-Shostakovich concert at the Philharmonic Bolshoy Hall in Leningrad.27 When he sent the full and vocal scores of the opera to Stolyarov on 23 February 1933, Shostakovich reminded him to be sure to give the organ entr'acte to Mikhail Starokadomsky, a professionally active organist, composer and long-time friend.28 Presumably Shostakovich envisaged the organ passacaglia as a self-contained excerpt that might thrive independently of the opera. It seems incontestable that the organ version of the passacaglia pre-dated the orchestral version. But there is no indication that Shostakovich ever intended the organ version of the passacaglia to replace the orchestral in a staged production of the opera. Writing in late 1933, shortly before the premieres in Leningrad and Moscow, A. Ostretsov singles out this 'monumental symphonic entr'acte' as a pivotal episode in the composer's conception of the tragedy of Katerina's fate, but makes no reference to the version for organ.29



25 The full score of the 1932 edition, needless to say, contains the orchestrated variant.

26 I. Sollertinsky, 'Ledi Makbet Mtsenskogo uyezda', Vechemyaya krasnaya gazeta, no. 20 (25 January 1934), p. 3.

27 Pis'ma k drugu (Moscow and St Petersburg, 1993), 7.

28 D. D. Shostakovich letter to G. Stolyarov, 23 February 1933, GTsMMK f. 291, ed. khr. 90.

29 A. Ostretsov, 'Ledi Makbet Mtsenskogo uyezda; opera Dmitriya Shostakovicha', Sovetskaya Muz'tka (6/1933), 9-32.




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