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Tea and Bets: Shostakovich’s “Tahiti Trot”

Hi everyone! Grace, our Co-Marketing Manager, will talk about one of her favorite pieces, “Tahiti Trot” by Dimitri Shostakovich.

Shostakovich, a child pianist turned prodigy composer, is recognized as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century for his innovative pieces, many of which were created under the censorship of Stalin. From his ominous and sorrowful String Quartet No. 8 to his satirical and humorous ballet L’age d’or (The Golden Age), Shostakovich’s brilliance shines through the diverse range of characters in his pieces.

Shostakovich first wrote “Tahiti Trot” in 1927 as a bet with his conductor friend Nikolai Malko. The two were listening to Vincet Youmans’ “Tea for Two”, a song from the Broadway show “No, No, Nanette”, when Malko bet Shostakovich 100 roubles to write an orchestration for the song entirely from memory in only one hour. Forty minutes later, Shostakovich walked out with the score for “Tahiti Trot” and an extra 100 roubles in his pocket.

Throughout the piece, Shostakovich holds true to the romantic tune of the original song with a luscious soli for the cellos and violins while jokingly poking fun at his friend with many glissandi from the trombones and piccolo, ensuring many smiles and grins from listeners and musicians alike.

Above is my favorite recording of the piece, played at the 1997 BBC Proms with the BBCPO conducted by Vassily Sinaisky. I hope this delightful piece brings you many smiles as it does for me!

Author: Grace Pan

Editor: Catherine Wu, Kevin Zhang


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