Dmitry Shostakovich

Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 10

    Description by Robert Cummings

    First symphonies are generally unsuccessful, or at least questionably successful as compositions. The Brahms First and the Prokofiev "Classical" Symphony are exceptions, not least because in the former instance the composer completed the work when he was 42, and in the latter because the pastiche nature of the piece reflected Prokofiev's youthful inclination toward surprises and stimulated his natural ability to write memorable melodies. Shostakovich's First Symphony is light in mood, like Prokofiev's, but is written in a thoroughly modern, if conservative vein.

    Shostakovich was 19 when he completed the piece, which he used as his graduation exercise for the Leningrad Conservatory. While he was working on it, he considered calling it "Symphony -- Grotesque." It was premiered on May 12, 1926, to an overwhelmingly enthusiastic reception. The symphony quickly caught on throughout the world, as Bruno Walter, Leopold Stokowski, and other noted conductors championed it. By the age of 21 Shostakovich was something of a celebrity, even mentioned in the company of the two Russian giants living abroad, Prokofiev and Stravinsky.

    The symphony already shows characteristics of Shostakovich's mature style, especially in its sense -- burgeoning though it was -- of irony and satire, as evidenced in the mischievous second movement. Both the first and second subjects of the first movement are rather typical of the mature composer as wel; their character would be out of place in the later symphonies, though not in the ballets and film scores to come.

    The work is cast in four movements, with the second lasting about five minutes and the other three having a duration of around eight to ten minutes each. The first movement begins with an introductory theme played by muted trumpet and answered by the bassoon. The main theme is march-like and serious, while the second subject is lyrical and has an air of nonchalance and grace. There is much color in the orchestration when the themes are developed. Overall the melodies in this movement, light though they are, are as memorable as any Shostakovich would write.

    As mentioned above, the second movement is satirical and a fine example of the composer's precocity. While it is colorful and imaginative, again featuring brilliant orchestration, it also divulges the influence of Prokofiev. It is no mere imitation, though. The third movement (Lento) begins with an oboe solo and leads to a threatening theme from the brass, after which a Largo brings calm but at the price of gloom. This movement also brings hints of the composer's later tragic style.

    The finale is connected to the third movement by a drum roll. The finale (Allegro molto) clearly comes across as episodic, switching from fast to slow and from triple forte to triple piano, and moving from melancholy moods to irony and even playfulness. The music also has a tendency to stop and start in places. Overall, though the work is not one of Shostakovich's greatest, it is one of the finest first symphonies ever written and has remained in the standard repertory.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegretto - Allegro non troppo
    2. Allegro (moto pepetuo)
    3. Lento
    4. Finale. Allegro molto

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon 4798418
    2018 Praga / Praga Digitals 250356
    2017 Alto ALC 1344
    2017 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186622
    2016 Lyrita REAM 2120
    2016 Melodiya MELCD 1002431
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795553
    2015 Erato
    2015 Radio France FRF 02027
    2015 Guild / Guild Historical GHCD 2415
    2015 Naxos 8501111
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 BIS 1643
    2014 RCA Red Seal 88843063602
    2013 The Entertainment Group 13802
    2013 Haenssler / Hänssler / Hänssler Classic CD 93303
    2012 BIS BISSACD 1603
    2012 Entertainment Group 12304
    2011 RCO Live RCO 11004
    2011 Naxos 8572396
    2011 Urania WS 121114
    2011 Warner Classics 256464177
    2010 Sony Classical 8869768365
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Doremi / Doremi Records 7998
    2010 Decca
    2010 Elatus
    2010 Decca
    2009 Mariinsky 502
    2009 EMI Classics
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099923768
    2009 Warner Classics
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099969759
    2008 Medici Arts 2072158
    2008 Brilliant Classics 8818
    2008 Corona Classic Collection / Edel Classics 0001842 CCC
    2008 Melodiya 1001065
    2008 Classics for Pleasure
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4777587
    2008 Sony Classical Essential Classics 727987
    2007 Urania URN 22313
    2007 LPO 99
    2007 Brilliant Classics 8128
    2007 MDG 9371207
    2007 MDG 3371207
    2007 Decca
    2007 Decca 475 8748DC12
    2006 Supraphon 38902
    2006 BBC Legends / BBC Music 41882
    2006 Edel Classics 2342
    2006 Edel Classics 0002332
    2006 Berlin Classics 0013782BC
    2006 Arts Music 47850
    2006 Sony Music Distribution 86844
    2006 EMI Classics 0946358077
    2006 Warner Classics
    2006 Penta Tone 5186068
    2006 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946365300
    2006 Decca 475 7413DC11
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Relief CR 991077
    2005 Supraphon 36992
    2005 LPO 1
    2005 Capriccio Records 71029
    2005 Warner Classics
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 000532002
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon
    2004 Moscow Studio Archives 19061
    2004 Brilliant Classics 6324
    2004 Halle Concerts Society 7506
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 75886
    2003 EMI Classics 5758872
    2002 Brilliant 6275
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 575178-2
    2002 Angelok 1 9916
    2001 Deutsche Grammophon 469316
    2001 Telarc Distribution 80572
    2001 Naxos 8 501102
    2000 Decca 425063
    2000 Vanguard 1031
    2000 Melodiya 72915
    1999 CBC Records 5074
    1999 RCA 902668844
    1998 Teldec 17046
    1998 Angel Records 66864
    1997 Arte Nova 27806
    1997 Melodiya 7432149611
    1996 Berlin Classics 0092172
    1996 Sony Music Distribution 62642
    1995 Denon Records 78948
    1995 EMI Music Distribution 55361
    1995 London 444 430-2LC11
    1994 Teldec 90849
    1994 Berlin Classics 0021812
    1994 Naxos 505017
    1994 Supraphon 1951
    1994 London 436838
    1994 Naxos 550623
    1994 EMI Music Distribution 65427
    1993 Collins Records 11922
    1993 Pearl 9044
    1993 Russian Disc RDCD11188
    1993 Sony Music Distribution SMK-47614
    1992 RCA 60323
    1992 Chandos 8411
    1989 Deutsche Grammophon 427632
    1989 Deutsche Grammophon / OOO Universal
    1989 Arabesque 6610
    EMI Music Distribution 67729
    Carlton 91542
    London 414677
    Brilliant Classics 8635/88
    Brilliant 8128/1
    Brilliant 6275-1
    Arts Music 47706
    Capriccio Records 71030
    London 425609
    Collins Records 1192
    Melodiya 1000103
    Supraphon 111951
    Vox 5139
    EMI Classics 698555
    IMG Artists 100
    Originals 863
    UNT College of Music