Hyperion Records

Sonata for viola and piano, Op 147
composer
dedicated to and first performed by Fyodor Serafimovich Druzhinin

Recordings
'Shostakovich: Music for viola and piano' (CDA67865)
Shostakovich: Music for viola and piano
Details
Movement 1: Moderato
Movement 2: Allegretto
Movement 3: Adagio

Sonata for viola and piano, Op 147
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The Viola Sonata was Shostakovich’s last work, and there is good reason to suppose that he knew it would be. He composed the greater part of it in June and July 1975 and died, of lung cancer, on 9 August. Following his own wishes, the Sonata was first performed by its dedicatee Fyodor Druzhinin, violist of the Beethoven Quartet (in succession to Borisovsky), who played it in private on 25 September, which would have been the composer’s sixty-ninth birthday, and in public on 1 October to a packed audience in the Small Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic. On that occasion Druzhinin acknowledged the standing ovation by holding the score aloft.

In consultations with Druzhinin during the process of composition, Shostakovich described the first movement of the Sonata as a ‘novella’, perhaps in recognition of its free-flowing three-part form. Here, as in many of his late works, atmosphere and tension are generated by the friction between twelve-note themes (as at the piano’s first entry) and images of pure diatonicism (such as the bare perfect fifths of the viola’s opening statement, which metastasize into perfect-fourth two-note chords at the end of the movement).

The scherzo-like second movement recycles the opening music from Shostakovich’s abandoned wartime opera on Gogol’s The Gamblers, a tale of card-sharps duped by their intended victim. In character this move­ment begins halfway between a polka and a quick march; the later stages are newly composed.

Most thought-provoking of all is the Adagio finale, which takes as its starting point the bleak viola lines from the middle of the second movement. As the finale gets under way Shostakovich paraphrases the famous opening movement of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata, drawing attention to the kinship between its repeated-note motif and his own favourite funereal intonations. At the heart of this movement is a passage of extreme austerity built on note-for-note quotations, mainly found in the piano left-hand part, from Shostakovich’s Second Violin Concerto and all fifteen of his symphonies in sequence. There could scarcely be a clearer indication that he knew—or at least suspected—that this would be his last work. On the last page the clouds clear, allowing yet another self-quotation to come through; this is the main theme of the early Suite for two pianos, Op 6, a work dedicated by its sixteen-year-old composer to the memory of his recently deceased father. The ‘radiance’ (the composer’s own description) of this transfigured C major, with its strong autobiographical associations, recalls the conclusion of Andrey Tarkovsky’s famous science-fiction film Solyaris (1972), where the main character is reunited with his dead father on the mysterious inter-planetary entity that has the power to realize the subconscious desires of those who contemplate it.

from notes by David Fanning © 2012

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67865 track 10
Adagio
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-11-86510
Duration
13'16
Recording date
26 October 2010
Recording venue
Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Shostakovich: Music for viola and piano (CDA67865)
    Disc 1 Track 10
    Release date: February 2012
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