Dmitri Shostakovich reviews Vladimir Sofronitsky

Moscow – 1942

The invitation card by the Scriabin Museum for Vladimir Sofronitsky's 1942 recital in the Writer's House.

For 2 people.

Dear comrade!

The Alexander Scriabin Museum invites you to a concert by Vladimir Sofronitsky on 30 September 1942. The programme - 'Russian Music'.

It begins at 6pm.

Address: Writer's House - Moscow


Vladimir Sofronitsky gave the above recital on the day that Shostakovich's review of his Moscow concerts was published in the newspaper.

They had known each other since 1920, when Shostakovich joined Leonid Nikolayev's class in the St. Petersburg Conservatory (Petrograd at the time).

They were together in the city at the start of the war, in June 1941, and together in this photo on the roof of the conservatory in July 1941, preparing for the bombing.

Vladimir Sofronitsky and Dmitri Shostakovich on the roof of the Leningrad Conservatory, in firefighter attire, preparing for the bombing in 1941.

Shostakovich is in the foreground on the right, and Sofronitsky is lower-centre-left, each wearing a helmet and with a firehose in hand.

Two months later the Siege began.

Shostakovich was evacuated from Leningrad to Kuybyshev (now Samara) in October, already writing what would become his seventh symphony. Sofronitsky however remained in the city throughout the autumn and winter.

He recalled the start of the war in an article written in 1943 –

I will never forget the first days of the war, the great friendship which emerged between the people of Leningrad at that difficult time, and their passionate and selfless desire to preserve their city at any cost. Under enemy gunfire, grey-haired professors and their wives, schoolchildren, mothers of soldiers, male and female factory workers, actors, poets, musicians, artists, all went out to dig trenches on the outskirts of Leningrad...

In our Leningrad Conservatory we immediately organised various defence units, including a voluntary fire brigade in which Dmitri Shostakovich and I took part – sometimes indignant at the efforts of our leaders to protect us from danger.

Мне никогда не забыть первых дней войны, величия дружбы, которая возникла между ленинградцами в тяжелую пору, и страстного самоотверженного их стремления любой ценой сохранить свой город. Рыть окопы на подступах к Ленинграду под орудийным обстрелом врага выходили седые профессора и их жены, школьники ленинградских школ, матери бойцов, рабочие и работницы ленинградских заводов, артисты ленинградских театров, поэты, музыканты, художники...

В нашей Ленинградской консерватории были немедленно организованы различные звенья обороны и в том числе добровольная пожарная команда, в которой композитор Дмитрий Шостакович и я также приняли участие, негодуя подчас на усилия наших руководителей оградить нас от опасности.

It was not until 8 April 1942 that Sofronitsky was evacuated by airlift. His father had passed away in Leningrad the month before, and upon arrival in Moscow he was in a fatigued and emaciated state.

Six days later, on 14 April, he signed a contract with the Moscow State Philharmonic for a series of concerts in Moscow from 14 April to 1 June – 24 performances in total, of which 3 would be solo recitals in the Tchaikovsky Hall, 2 solo recitals in other Moscow concert halls, and 9 performances either in mixed concerts or on the radio. I have a copy of this contract and it states that each solo recital counts for three performances, hence 24 in total. Upon signing the contract Sofronitsky received an advance payment of 1500 roubles.

His first performance in Moscow post-evacuation was on 26 April in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall. He played Bach-Busoni, Beethoven and Chopin.

Upon completing the contract, he gave a further 4 recitals – 5 June, 12 July, 9 August and 27 September – bringing us to the invitation at the top of this article and the publication of Dmitri Shostakovich's review of Sofronitsky's Moscow concerts.

The concerts of Vladimir Sofronitsky in Moscow

Recently the pianist Vladimir Sofronitsky has been giving concerts in Moscow. This remarkable musician has gained immense popularity amongst the widest possible audience. A pianist of great culture, Sofronitsky gives the entirety of his rich and striking technique – all of his versatile performing arsenal – to the task of conveying the meaning of the work as deeply and as profoundly as possible to the listener.

Sofronitsky's technical ability is phenomenal. However – if I can put it this way – you don't notice his execution. When you listen to him, you begin to closely follow the artistic images of the work. With exceptional insight Sofronitsky is able to convey the composer's creative intent. He is a musician who can philosophically interpret the piece. The power of his performance conquers the audience. And very often at the end of the concert one can hear the audience comment on how good Beethoven is, how interesting Scriabin, and how poetic Chopin. This is the highest praise for an artist.

Sofronitsky came to Moscow from Leningrad where, despite the harsh winter, he managed to not only preserve but to increase his remarkable qualities. Sofronitsky is an outstanding representative of Soviet musical culture, working hard and developing his skills. He is growing as a musician and as a self-demanding master.

  • Dmitri Shostakovich - 30 September 1942

Концерты Владимира Софроницкого в Москве

В последнее время в Москве выступает со своими концертами пианист В. Софроницкий. Этот замечательный музыкант завоевал себе огромную популярность среди самой широкой аудитории. Пианист большой культуры, Софроницкий всю свою богатую и яркую технику, весь свой разносторонний исполнительский арсенал отдает задаче можно глубже и проникновеннее донести до слушателя замысел исполняемоего им произведения.

Технические возможности Софроницкого феноменальны. Однако его исполнение, если можно так выразиться, не замечаешь. Когда его слушаешь, начинает пристально следить за художественными образами исполняемоего произведения. Софроницкий с исключительным проникновением умеет передать творческий замысел композитора. Он – музыкант, умеющий философски истолковать исполняемую вещь. Сила его исполнения покоряет аудиторию. И очень часто по окончании концерта доносятся суждения слушателей о том, как хорош Бетховен, интересен Скрябин и поэтичен Шопен. Это высшая похвала артисту.

Софроницкий приехал в Москву из Ленинграда, где он, несмотря на суровую зиму, сумел не только сохранить, но и приумножить свои замечательные качества. Софроницкий – это выдающийся представитель советской музыкальной культуры, упорно работающий и повышающий свое мастерство. Он растет как музыкант и как взыскательный к себе мастер.

  • Дмитрий Шостакович - 30 сентября 1942 г.

A young Dmitri Shostakovich looking into the camera.
A young Vladimir Sofronitsky looking into the camera.
  • ADGO 15.03.21

Translations are mine