Shostakovich’s English secret

The conductor Thomas Sanderling has uncovered a wartime suite of romances by Dmitri Shostakovich on poems by Shakespeare, Walter Raleigh and Robbie Burns. Even more remarkable is a wondrously unidiomatic orchestration of the Scottish ballad, Annie Laurie. Who knew?

Gerald Finley sings the glorious world premieres on an imminent Ondine recording.

gerald finley sanderling

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  • Well… the Romances are rarely performed but have been recorded several times in their piano and orchestral guises. The Annie Laurie arrangement is not an unknown either – it was lurking in the Glinka Museum.

    So I’m not sure what secret has actually been unearthed here.

  • Maybe the Scottish thing is new, but the Romances have been recorded before. Actually, I sing them myself!

  • The Romances are sung magnificently by Finley in English (an approved alternate version, recently uncovered) for their first recorded performance. I am listening to it on Spotfiy as I type . . .

  • “Wert thou in the Cauld Blast” by Burns is done in concert quite a bit. I think the set of these songs (at least in the orchestral version) ends with The Grand Old Duke of York

    • Not quite: the poem in question is titled “The King’s Campaign” and is a variant of “The Grand Old Duke of York”; However, this one has a sting in the tail that the original doesn’t have, and must surely have appealed to Shostakovich’s mordant sense of irony:

      “Up to the top of the hill

      The King has marched his men;

      The King has come down back again,

      But without his band of men.”

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