Shostakovich's Two-Piano Version of 'Babi Yar' Symphony Gets World Premiere Tonight

Classic Arts News   Shostakovich's Two-Piano Version of 'Babi Yar' Symphony Gets World Premiere Tonight
Before the advent of modern software and electronic equipment for writing and hearing music, composers often arranged their own orchestral scores for one or two pianos. While such reductions were usually made for the sake of convenience — that of composers themselves or of performers and presenters with limited means — some of these arrangements are finding a new life even as their original purpose fades into history. Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, Orff's Carmina Burana and Brahms's German Requiem in particular have been enjoying success both in concert and on recordings in their two-keyboard versions.

Dmitri Shostakovich made a two-piano version, never published, of his "Babi Yar" Symphony, No. 13, to verse by the Soviet dissident poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. (The two-piano reduction was, however, used to play the work for Soviet censors in order to get permission for the symphony's first performance.) Thanks to special permission from the composer's widow, a portion of that arrangement is having its world premiere tonight in New York City.

"Babi Yar Remembered: Yevtushenko and Shostakovich in Word and Song," a special observance of the 65th anniversary of the notorious 1941 massacre of Ukrainian Jews near Kiev, is set for 7 pm this evening in Safra Hall at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan.

Yevtushenko himself will be on hand to recite his poem "Babi Yar," followed by the first movement (the one which sets that text) of the Symphony No. 13 in Shostakovich's two-piano version. The keyboard players will be Misha Dichter and his wife Cipa, joined by bass soloist Valentin Peytchinov and the men of the Riverside Choral Society, the Rutgers University Kirkpatrick Choir and the Rutgers University Glee Club, all conducted by Patrick Gardner.

Also on the program will be Shostakovich's Concertina for Two Pianos and several songs to texts by Yevtushenko; the poet will also recite several of his other works.

Complete information and tickets are available at the Museum of Jewish Heritage website,

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