For the the third title in his Shostakovich symphony cycle, Valery Gergiev again couples two works from different stages in the composer’s career. Although Shostakovich’s symphonies are usually highly programmatic, the Third and Tenth Symphonies are amongst his most enigmatic works.
Symphony No. 3 was first performed in January 1930, its final movement setting a text by Semyon Isaakovich Kirsanov praising May Day and the revolution. Shostakovich stated that the work “expresses the spirit of peaceful reconstruction” and yet much of the music is dark and sombre in tone.
The Tenth Symphony is one of his most popular and frequently heard works. It was first performed in December 1953 following the death of Stalin, although Shostakovich had been working on much of the material incorporated in the symphony for many years. The great Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya claimed that the symphony was “a composer’s testament of misery, forever damning a tyrant.” Previous releases in Gergiev’s Shostakovich cycle include Symphonies Nos 2 & 11 and Symphonies Nos 1 & 15, the latter of which was nominated for two Grammy Awards. The Mariinsky label will release its second recording with pianist Denis Matsuev during May 2011 featuring Shostakovich’s piano concertos.