The Kennedy Center

Waltzes (1957)

About the Work

Image for Dimitri Shostakovich Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich
© Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Shostakovich earned his enduring international reputation with his symphonies, concertos, operas and chamber works, but throughout his life he also composed in the more popular idioms-film scores, incidental music, ballets, jingoistic anthems-that were not only officially encouraged by the Soviets but in which he also firmly believed. "I consider that every artist who isolates himself from the world is doomed," he maintained. "I find it incredible that an artist should wish to shut himself away from the people." He composed incidental music for no fewer than 13 theatrical productions in Moscow and Leningrad, and contributed scores to some three dozen films, and during the 1950s and 1960s, excerpts from several of them were arranged into concert works-including the Four Waltzes for Flute/Piccolo, Clarinet and Piano-by his friend Levon Atovmyan (1901-73), a composer, one-time musical assistant to the famed Russian director Vsevolod Meyerhold (who was arrested in 1939 and executed the following year for his non-conformist productions), and administrator in various composers' and music associations. [This program includes two of the waltzes.]

Waltz was written for the film Maxim's Return (1937), the second part of a trilogy about the rise of a Soviet everyman who begins his political indoctrination in prison in 1910, returns as a Bolshevik agent in 1914, and is appointed head of the national bank after the revolution. The film's director was Grigori Kozintsev, with whom Shostakovich collaborated on a dozen movies between 1928 and 1971, including screen adaptations of Hamlet and King Lear. The Barrel-Organ Waltz is taken from the music for the film The Gadfly (1955), based on a novel by the late-19th-century English writer Ethel L. Voynich set in 1840 in Austrian-occupied Italy. The Gadfly is a revolutionary leader, so called because his "sting" had become legend.

[Editor's Note: Although Levon Atovmyan arranged the suite for flute/piccolo, this version will be played on flute only.]