In 1943, the war was raging between Hitler’s Germany and the Soviet Union. To boost the Soviet’s morale Joseph Stalin decided to gift the people with an anthem.
An anthem, called ‘The Internationale’, was written in October 1917. The albeit outmoded Anthem was chosen and an anthem competition was thus decreed. 200 Soviet composers and poets were asked for submissions. Among them was Dmitri Shostakovich, then age 36.
Stalin had judged Shostakovich’s music once before, and things had not gone well for the composer. Stalin had previously judged the composers work.
After attending Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District in 1936, the “Father of Nations” showed his dissatisfaction. In an unsigned Pravda article titled “Muddle Instead of Music” the author accused the composer of indulging in chaos and dissonance, for being a formalist, with no regard for the interests of the people.
An attack against formalism in art followed, and Shostakovich withdrew his already completed Fourth Symphony.
This decision may have been instrumental in saving his life.
The composer fell out of favor for two years while many of his colleagues, relatives, and friends were arrested or executed.
But when Shostakovich composed his magnificent Fifth Symphony, it immediately appeased his critics and advanced his worldwide fame as one of the century’s leading composers.
Shostakovich had scored another success with his wartime Seventh Symphony at the time of the anthem competition and d dedicated it to the siege of his hometown, Leningrad.
The composer was aware of his precarious position during the time of his comeback at the peak of Soviet culture.
None of Shostakovich’s anthem entries won, which was judged by Stalin.“
“Song of the Bolchevic” presented by the founder of the Red Army Choir, had all the major chords and fortes Stalin wanted.
“However, Shostakovich made no mention of not winning and put the score way.
After Stalin’s death in 1953, the composer’s career was much easier.
He wrote at a vigorous pace and in 1960 was tapped to become the general secretary of the Union of Composers but there was a warning: he had to join the Communist Party.
According to The New York Times, the composer’s friend Isaak Glikman recounted an incident that took place before Shostakovich’s final induction in June of that year: amid violent sobs, the laureate of five Stalin’s State Prizes, two Orders of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, and People’s Artist of the USSR lamented being “hounded” and forced to join the “Party of violence.”
But for the sake f his music, he joined anyway.
Afterward, a recording of the original orchestral score, titled “Novorossiysk Chimes”(Opus 111b) was submitted by the composer.
According to New York Books review, in Strangely, when officials gathered in front of the tape recorder, some bizarre dance music spewed at them from the loudspeakers when someone guessed that they needed to compare the recording’s speed with the speed of their apparatus; the two didn’t match. They went off to the city’s only broadcasting station and adjusted the speed to hear a crystalline introduction.
Novorossiysk Chimes is now the city anthem and measures up to its official national counterpart. It’s possibly the most played piece of Shostakovich’s music in the world.
Novorossiysk Chimes has been playing nonstop at Heroes Square in Novorossiysk since its opening on September 27, 1960.
The greatness of Shostakovich,” Fred Mazelis notes in his WSWS article on the composer’s legacy, was “to reflect the great struggles of his time, to find the musical language, in abstract, personal and emotional terms, through which to express not only his personal travail, but that of many millions of others.”
Listen to the magic of Dmitri Shostakovich’s entry Novorossijsk Chimes, the Flame of Eternal Glory for Orchestra, Op. 111b) into the competition to establish the national anthem of the U.S.S.R. (Union of Soviet socialist republics, played by the National Orchestra of Ukraine played by the National Orchestra of Ukraine