A lifelong celebration “Dans toutes les choses humaines, les origines avant tout sont dignes d’Etude.” Ernest Renan (“In the study of all human aff airs, it is important to go back to the origins.”) Th is venerable aphorism is borne out by Shostakovich’s First Symphony. Written when he was nineteen years old, this work off ers both an insight into the source of his creativity and an encapsulation of his future work. The Symphony summarises the years of early study, displaying the composer’s unusual technical maturity; it mirrors the Russian post-Revolution decade in its desire for novelty and its attitude to the departing world. It could be argued that the historical events at that time provided a framework for Shostakovich’s score, with the Symphony becoming the most important, possibly the most quintessential event of the musical avant-garde.
Of course the First Symphony owes much to the infl uence of the classical traditions of Tchaikovsky and Skryabin, the impressions shaped by contemporary authors and the impact of all the music so fascinating to Shostakovich’s circle of composers. It was hardly a coincidence that the Symphony was dedicated to Mikhail Kvadri, the erudite composer who was such an inspiration to our young Shostakovich. (Kvadri was to become, in 1933, one of the early victims of Stalin’s Great Terror.) Yet it can be demonstrated that Shostakovich was soon to shake off the direct infl uence of his outstanding contemporaries, Stravinsky and Prokofi ev.