Shostakovich – Tahiti Trot

by Max Derrickson

Dmitri Shostakovich      (Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, 1906; died in Moscow, 1975)


Tahiti Trot (1927)

Despite many of the forced musical testaments to banality that Shostakovich wrote for the favor of the Socialist Party, he also created dozens of masterpieces.  Before the Soviet horrors that would eventually befall Russia, there was a Shostakovich of unsurpassed brilliance as a composer, and from those halcyon days comes the Tahiti Trot.

[. . .]

But before the Cultural Revolution (1928-1932) began in the Soviet Union – when Totalitarianism truly began there – life in Russiahad a considerable appreciation and interplay with the West.  Jazz and Broadway tunes were extremely popular in the early Soviet world, and Shostakovich, for one, was an almost insatiable fan of these popular genres – his love of jazz with its blue notes and syncopated rhythms made their way into his works from time to time, especially during these early, relatively carefree years.  Many of the composers and pieces he admired were American.  Indeed, one of the most memorable contemporaries of George Gershwin’s was Vincent Youmans.  His 1924 break-out musical, No, No Nanette met with wild success in America and abroad. Two songs from this show, in particular, caught fire: No, No Nanette and Tea for Two.

The year was 1927 and Shostakovich and a conductor friend, Nikolai Malko, first heard a recording of Tea for Two.
[. . .]

Beginning with some snippets of the first part of the song, Shostakovich then playfully hands off the main tune to a goofy celesta, glockenspiel and triangle combo, who then hand the tune to xylophone and castanets, and then to the strings.  Then, with deliciously over-dramatized Broadway bravura,
[. . .]
Whenever it’s played in concert, Tahiti Trot is met with the appreciation and smiles it so richly deserves.