Dmitri Shostakovich: Festive Overture


Commissioned by the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow at the very last minute for the 37th anniversary of the 1917 Revolution event in 1954, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture was composed in a matter of days. The premiere took place in November 1954, performed by the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra. It has been said that many people were so impressed at the sheer speed that Shostakovich composed this work, that he had couriers who would run back and forth to the theatre with his score parts to copy them for the orchestra. 


The Music

Opening with a brass fanfare, the jubilant atmosphere is set from the start. There is a sense of grandiose at the beginning of the work as Shostakovich layers the different brass sounds to create rich and sonorous fanfare-style chords. The winds and strings take over with a quick and memorable tune. The sheer energy of the melody keeps the music bobbing along at a quick tempo. 

A more lyrical central section is heard, which features the horns and cellos. The brass play a big part in the overture, with their bombastic character adding excitement and volume to the music. Shostakovich plays with some counterpoint in the central section, creating different lines of melody that all intertwine and interlock. A reprise of the opening material is heard once more before the opening fanfare rears its head again. The bold and powerful brass fanfare leads into the thrilling coda which finishes the overture in scintillating style.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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