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Abbreviations (PDF)

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes / Sikorski for the UK, British Commonwealth (excluding Canada), Republic of Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Israel.

Repertoire Note

1 The Wood, the Weed, the Wag (Raleigh)
2 O, Wert thou in the Cauld Blast (Burns)
3 Macpherson before his Execution (Burns)
4 Jenny (Burns)
5 Sonnet 66 (Shakespeare)
6 The Grand Old Duke of York

Written during the early period of the Second World War, these settings of English and Scottish poetry include poems by Walter Raleigh, Burns and Shakespeare, and end with a popular nursery rhyme.

Shostakovich himself loved this cycle. He chose the words with great care, to reflect private and public feelings during one of the bleakest periods of the war, and he dedicated each song to one of his closest friends. He frequently quoted from this music in his other works and he orchestrated the whole cycle twice. The first orchestration, op.62a for full orchestra, dates from 1943. The second, op.140 for chamber orchestra, was in 1971 towards the end of the composer’s life.

This is a dark, anguished, sometimes vulgar, sometimes violent piece, shot through with irony, mockery and anger. With a strong singer it is music that can make a most powerful impression.

Note by Gerard McBurney

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