Symphony No. 3 (Shostakovich)

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The Symphony No. 3 in E flat major (Opus 20; subtitled First of May) by Dmitri Shostakovich was first performed by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra and Academy Capella Choir under Aleksandr Gauk on 21 January 1930.

Similar to the Second Symphony, it is an experimental choral symphony in four continuous sections:

  1. AllegrettoAllegro
  2. Andante
  3. Largo
  4. Moderato: 'V pérvoye, Pérvoye máya'

The symphony lasts around 25 to 30 minutes. The finale sets a text by Semyon Isaakovich Kirsanov praising May Day and the revolution. Interpretation is difficult: in a letter to Boleslav Yavorsky, Shostakovich said that the work "expresses the spirit of peaceful reconstruction"; on the other hand, most of the material preceding the finale is dark and sometimes sardonic in tone.


The symphony is scored for mixed chorus and an orchestra of 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horn, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, triangle, snare drum, cymbals, bass drum, tam-tam, glockenspiel, xylophone, and strings.

Notable recordings[edit]

Notable recordings of this symphony include:

Chorus Orchestra Conductor Record Company Year of Recording Format
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra Kirill Kondrashin Melodiya 1965–1975 (for complete symphonies) CD
London Philharmonic Choir London Philharmonic Orchestra Bernard Haitink Decca Records 1981 CD
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Vladimir Ashkenazy Decca Records 1992 CD
London Voices London Symphony Orchestra Mstislav Rostropovich Teldec 1993 CD
Bavarian Radio Chorus Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra Mariss Jansons EMI Classics 2005 CD
Prague Philharmonic Chorus Prague Symphony Orchestra Maxim Shostakovich Supraphon CD
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra Vasily Petrenko Naxos Records CD

Source: (recommended recordings selected based on critics reviews)