Festive Overture (Shostakovich)
Dmitri Shostakovich’s five-minute Festive Overture in A major, Op. 96, was written in 1947 to mark the 30th anniversary of the October Revolution. It was not performed however until the 37th anniversary, when Alexander Melik-Pashayev conducted it during a Nov. 6, 1954, concert in Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre.
The Bolshoi's conductor, Vassili Nebolsin,* found himself without a suitable new work to open the concert, and contacted Shostakovich just days before. The composer set to work* on the overture with great speed, completing it in three days. He apparently based it on Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmilla overture (1842), and it features the same lively tempo and style of melody. Whilst the style reflects Shostakovich, the piece as a whole uses very conventional classical devices of form and harmony.
The overture begins with a fanfare in the brass, followed by a fast melody in the winds. The strings take up this melody and the piece reaches a climax with a four-note motif. Suddenly, the music reaches a more lyrical melody in the horns and cellos, although the tempo remains the same. Shostakovich develops this material in his typical style, using both themes in counterpoint, before the fanfare returns and leads to a rousing coda.
Shostakovich scored the overture for one piccolo, two flutes, three oboes, three clarinets in A, two bassoons, one contrabassoon; four horns in F, three trumpets in B-Flat, two trombones, one bass trombone, one tuba; a percussion section with timpani, triangle, cymbals, bass drum, and snare drum; and strings. Shostakovich also included four offstage horns in F, three offstage trumpets in B-flat, two offstage trombones and one offstage bass trombone.