Song of the Forests, Op. 81
II. “Let us clothe our country with woodland”
Michail Jurowski, cond.
In considering a work like Song of the Forests, a forty-minute cantata glorifying Stalin’s extensive reforestation programs in the late 1940s, it is not difficult to imagine why Shostakovich (who passed away on this day, 9 August, in 1975) might have spent so much time smoking cigarettes and glancing about nervously.
Shostakovich and other Soviet composers had recently come under fire in the Zhdanov Decree of 1948, gravely accused of creating “formalist,” degenerate, anti-Soviet art. The Party demanded simplistic, contagious music with the sole purpose of extolling the glories of Soviet life and Party ideology, and Shostakovich answered with this work for which he received—to his relief and dismay simultaneously—the Stalin Prize.
“It would be nice,” a friend remarked to the composer, “if you could have gotten the Queen of the Netherlands rather than Stalin—she’s really a fan of reforestation, you know.”