Lost Shostakovich sonata has UK premiere

Shostokovich in 1942

Shostokovich in 1942

A little known Shostakovich violin sonata fragment is to be heard for the first time in the UK at a special University of Manchester performance today (19 January).

The hauntingly beautiful six-minute unfinished section - which came to light after the composer died - will be played by violinist Marc Danel from the University’s resident string quartet, the Quatuor Danel.

He will be accompanied by Professor of Music at The University of Manchester David Fanning - a leading authority on Shostakovich, one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated composers.

The only Shostakovich violin sonata known to date is his Opus 134, composed in 1968.

But a second, as yet unpublished sonata was written 23 years earlier in 1945, and part of it formed the basis of the first movement’s third theme in his Tenth Symphony of 1953.

Music scholars typically believe the Tenth, an acknowledged masterpiece, was written as a reaction to the death of Stalin.

But the fragment shows that ideas for the symphony were fermenting long before 1953 – adding more complexity to our understanding of its influences.

Professor Fanning said: “This six-minute fragment breaks off towards the end of what would evidently have been the first movement of a full-length sonata.

“Restrained and lyrical in tone, the music is remarkable for its clear foreshadowing of the first movement of the Tenth Symphony - arguably Shostakovich’s greatest orchestral masterpiece, composed seven years later.”

He added: “Various Shostakovich works have been rediscovered in recent years, following the opening up of Soviet archives in Russia.

“Some of these pieces, like this one, have been known about for some years, but not published or performed.

“This fragment is of particular interest, as it adds another piece to the puzzle of what constituted Shostakovich’s creative process.”

The musicians will also play the moving Sonata No. 5 for Violin and Piano by Mieczysław Weinberg, friend and disciple of Shostakovich

And there will also be the first performance of Three Portraits by the talented Robin Stevens, a PhD student in composition at the University.

The lost sonata fragment, discovered at the Russian State Archives for Literature and Art, was first performed in Russia in 2006, and by Marc Danel and Ruhiddin Durrup at a Dmitri Shostakovitch International Association concert in Paris. in 2010.

Marc Danel said: “This really is a very beautiful piece of music, and I regret very much that Shostakovich did not complete it. We don’t really know why that is the case.

“As the Shostakovich quartets are a major part of Quatuor Danel’s repertoire, it was quite emotional to be able to play this piece and I’m delighted David asked me play it.

“I naturally wonder if one day a composer may be able to complete it, but that must be the decision of the Shostakovich family.”

He added: “The Quatuor Danel have in the past played a discarded fragment of the Ninth Quartet.

“But I can understand why this was not used by Shostakovich as the music is inferior.

“But this sonata fragment is another matter entirely: it’s a marvellous piece of music, and we hope our British audience will enjoy it as much as much we do.”

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