Movement 1: Allegro non troppo – Largo
Movement 2: Allegro
Movement 3: Largo
Movement 4: Allegro
Right from the start, the Sonata feels like a new departure. Its gently rocking opening doesn’t sound like anything Shostakovich had written before; the very self-conscious repeat of the sonata exposition is almost a declaration of faith in Classical first principles. And, though Shostakovich had cancelled further lucrative work in film in order to concentrate on it, the Sonata is permeated with the intonations of popular music and Lady Macbeth. Instead of the yearning arioso-writing that can be heard in the contemporaneous Moderato for cello and piano, the Sonata’s Largo shows a stronger kinship with the convicts’ song that concludes the opera, echoing it strongly in its four-bar phrasing, its melodic shape and even at one point by a close allusion. In the cheekily song-like finale Shostakovich reverts to the high spirits of the previous year’s First Piano Concerto, keeping the manic spirit of music-hall only just at arm’s length. Most remarkable of all, though, is the faux-naif second-movement scherzo, with its stark, almost peasant-like roughness. At no point does it evoke Russian folk song; in fact, its heavy repeated rhythms and four-square phrases are more reminiscent of German or Austrian dances as refracted through the lens of Schubert, Brahms or Mahler. Notwithstanding all these influences, there is a distinctly urban swagger to the scherzo, suggesting that here, once again, Shostakovich the film composer is not far away.
from notes by Pauline Fairclough © 2006