Shostakovich’s English secret

Shostakovich’s English secret


norman lebrecht

April 02, 2014

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


  • Stefan says:

    Nothing new! Has all been recorded before… But I am still looking forward to the great Finley singing it!

  • Dave K says:

    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.

  • Patrick van Rhedenborg says:

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

  • David Boxwell says:

    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 . . .

  • Halldor says:

    Technically, settings of Burns would be his “Scottish secret”….

    • The language is English.

      • Dave K says:

        Just about.

        • Joel V. says:

          The Romances have usually been sung and performed in the chamber orchestra version, not in the original 1943 version for full orchestra. The Scottish Ballad (Annie Laurie; orchestral version) is a premiere recording. As for the Michelangelo Suite, it is recorded for the first time sung in Italian (orchestral version).

          • Dave K says:

            Well, not quite… The original version is that of 1942, with piano accompaniment. Is there a recording if the 1943 orchestral version? I’m intrigued.

          • Joel V. says:

            This recording includes 1943 orchestral version.

  • Mark Stratford says:

    “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

    • Paul Pellay says:

      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.”