Audio Reference Clips

How Shostakovitch Changed My Mind

At several points in How Shostakovich Changed My Mind there are references to specific passages in some of Shostakovich’s major works. I could simply have given bar numbers from the scores, but that would be to exclude readers who can’t read music, and in any case the number of musicians with ready access to all the scores featured here is probably very small. For this reason, I have provided links to YouTube recordings of the works under discussion, with indications (in the form of quotations from the book) as to which musical details are being highlighted, and exact timings locating the point in the recording where those details may be heard. I’ve also included links to works by two other composers mentioned in the book, again with timings. Sometimes one short musical example can make a point better than any number of words.

All the recordings included here were made during the Soviet era, all but one (the Fifteenth Quartet) when Shostakovich was still alive: he was actually present at some of them. The sound quality isn’t always first rate, but in each case I think the impassioned conviction and understanding of the musicianship fully compensate for any technical shortcomings.


Symphony No 7, Leningrad (pp. 9, 13)

p.9 ‘The “invasion theme” is a jaunty march-like tune…’ (5:44)

p.13 ‘Take the Leningrad Symphony’s opening theme…’ (Beginning – to 0:44)

‘Then at the end of the Symphony it returns…’ (1:09:39″)

‘…despite the grim minor key onslaughts of timpani and bass drum.’ (1:10:49)

Symphony No 5 (pp.14, 18-19, 30)

p.14 ‘At its heart is a series of long, desolate woodwind solos…’ (23:29)

‘But then, for a moment, the string writing fills out with a kind of grainy luminescence…’ (24:47)

p.19 ‘…then more violins enter with a short but indescribably eloquent phrase…’ (20:39)

p.30 ‘In the hushed passage before the Symphony’s final crescendo, the harp picks out a repeated accompanying figure…’ (37:43)

Symphony No 4 (pp.34, 45-46, 49, 53-54, 152-153)

p.34 ‘…then, when the coda begins with a heart-stopping crescendo on two sets of timpani and bass drum…’ (52:36)

p.45 ‘…a melody emerges on solo horn, with what sound like little touches of birdsong on a high clarinet. (10:02) …yet only a couple of minutes later it undergoes a shocking transformation…’ (11:48)

p.46 ‘Then suddenly, all this is cut off, to be replaced by an absurd, strutting little march…’ (12:29)

‘…we are suddenly caught in the slipstream of an insane, helter-skelter fugue for racing strings.’ (14:22)

p.49 ‘The birdsong that flickers briefly in the first movement expands here on piccolos and flutes…’ (43:37 etc.)

p.53 ‘The first part of the Symphony’s “superb coda” is an antiphonal hymn…’ (52:45)

‘The Mahlerian funeral march from the beginning of the movement piles back in. (54:12) One last “collective shout” from full orchestra brings formal closure…’ (54:54)

p.54 ‘…a quietly pulsating rhythm, like a heartbeat – da-daah, da-daah, da-daah…’ (56:22 etc.)

p.152-153 ‘My head is full of the end of Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony.’ (52:36 – to end of recording)

Symphony No 15 (p.58)

p.58 ‘…the composer’s favourite tattoo rhythm (1:34) …suddenly morphs into the famous “gallop” theme from Rossini’s William Tell Overture.’ (1:38)

Cello Concerto No 1 (p.59)

p.59 ‘Take the finale… It begins with an all-purpose “Eastern” folk tune…’ (21:28)

‘…massed strings deliver a five-note phrase twice, each time with a mocking little woodwind grimace in answer.’ (21:43)

Symphony No 8 (pp.60-61, 79)

p.60 ‘The finale’s massive climax feels like a colossal effort to confront trauma…’ (51:06)

p.61 ‘A gurgling low bass clarinet begins a lurching, swaying, inebriated dance.’ (52:25)

p.79 ‘Eventually, the music comes to rest on an ethereal, long-held chord of C major…’ (54:59)

Symphony No 10 (pp.65-66, 70-71)

p.65-6 ‘Pungent woodwind present a barely disguised reference to the theme that opens Mussorgsky’s great tragic opera Boris Godunov…’ (21:29)

p.71 ‘…D-S-C-H is thundered out by the full orchestra in unison…’ (45:29)

‘Eventually D-S-C-H is drawn centre-stage, high-kicking on bass brass and strings, (48:20) and finally pounding out maniacally on four timpani…’ (48:48)

Suite on Verses by Michelangelo Buonarroti (pp.76-77)

p.76 ‘In the climactic tenth song…’ (39:26)

‘In an impossibly bright F sharp major, piccolo, flute and clarinet… chatter out a chirpy little tune…’ (44:28)

p.77 ‘”I am not dead,” the singer concludes. (47:19) More hushed, pulsing major chords follow, (47:54) a celesta glitters for a moment like a malformed musical box, (48:08) then a repeated major chord on a harp fades, (48:13) morendo al fine…’

String Quartet No 8 (pp.97-98, 105)

p.97 ‘Its basic theme is Shostakovich’s own musical signature, D-S-C-H (Beginning – 0:07)

‘After this come quotations from Shostakovich’s own First (0:35) and Fifth (1:51) Symphonies, his Second Piano Trio (5:05), First Cello Concerto (8:31) and the opera Lady Macbeth.’ (14:06)

p.97-8 ‘…that self-lacerating citation of Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony…’ (0:59)

p.105 ‘…after the fourth movement’s achingly loving glance back at a melody from Lady Macbeth…’ (14:06) ‘A few fragmented echoes of earlier quotations morph slowly into DSCH on a solitary low violin. (15:22) Then the music at last begins to flow.’ (15:34)

String Quartet No 15 (pp.126-127)

p.126 ‘…a hushed polyphonic meditation on a simple, repeated-note theme poised somewhere between mournful Russian folksong and ancient priestly chant.’ (0:02 – to 12:03)

p.127 ‘…a faint but unmistakable echo of the motif that haunted Shostakovich’s music for four decades…’ (35:50)

Symphony No 11 (pp.142, 151)

p.142 ‘Its spacious, ominous stillness is a perfect fit for this spectacle…’ (0:01 et seq)

p.150-151 ‘…the roars of massed angry defiance that end the Eleventh…’ (52:52)

p.151 ‘Sounding clearly through the Eleventh Symphony’s thrilling finale are echoes of an old students’ revolutionary song…’ (40:28)


Boris Godunov

p.66 ‘…the theme that opens Mussorgsky’s great tragic opera Boris Godunov…’ (Beginning – to 0:17 – & continuing to 1:00)


Symphony No 6, Pathétique

p.54 ‘…a heartbeat – da-daah, da-daah, da-daah. Unmistakably it is an echo of the ending of another great Russian tragic symphony, Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique.’ (47:44 – to end of recording)