Hyperion Records

Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Op 29 (Act II, Scene 4)

'Organ Fireworks, Vol. 4' (CDA66605)
Organ Fireworks, Vol. 4
Track 9 on CDA66605 [6'53] Archive Service

Shostakovich wrote the opera from which this Passacaglia is taken in his mid-twenties. It was an immediate success but was condemned, shortly after it was written, in a Pravda article headed ‘Muddle instead of Music’ which the composer believed was largely written by Stalin—who even vilified the opera as ‘leftish chaos instead of natural human music’! Stalin’s reaction to this opera set the seal on Shostakovich’s career in its turbulent development from then on.

The heroine of the opera, Katerina Ismailova, becomes by her situation and actions the ‘Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk’ of the story from which Shostakovich drew his libretto. She is trapped in a loveless, heirless marriage, and takes a lover who is caught and flogged by her father-in-law. In revenge she doses the latter’s mushrooms with rat poison and he dies, but not before naming her to the priest as his murderess. As this scene ends (Act II, Scene 4) the Passacaglia crashes in, a massive evocation of the forces in which Katerina is entangled. This arrangement of the Passacaglia for organ is by the composer.

from notes by Ian Carson © 1992

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