Festive Overture (Shostakovich)
The Festive Overture in A major, Op. 96, was written by Dmitri Shostakovich and premiered in 1954 at a concert held at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the October Revolution (which took place in 1917).
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 the following large orchestra:
- Woodwinds: piccolo, 2 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets in A, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon
- Brass: 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in B-Flat, 3 trombones, tuba, offstage brass (4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in B-flat, 3 trombones)
- Percussion: timpani, triangle, cymbals, bass drum, snare drum
- Strings: first and second violins, violas, violoncellos, double basses