Festive Overture

From Wind Repertory Project
Dmitri Shostakovich

Dmitri Shostakovich (trans. Donald Hunsberger)

This work bears the designation Opus 96.

General Info

Year: 1954 / 1965
Duration: c. 6:15
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: G. Schirmer
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $115.00   |   Score Only (print) - $7.50


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
Eb-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Orchestra Bells
  • Snare Drum
  • Triangle


  • Bassoon I-II, 1 m. before reh. 16, beat 5: remove extra quarter rest
  • E-flat Alto Saxophones I-II, 9 m. after reh. 23, beat 12: quarter note C should be an eighth note; bar all three eighth notes together (F, G, & A).
  • Numerous errata citations are given in the Hunsberger article (see Resources below).

Program Notes

The Festive Overture was composed in 1954, in the period between Symphony No. 10 and the Violin Concerto. Its American premiere was given by Maurice Abravanel and the Utah Symphony Orchestra on November 16, 1955. In 1956, the New York Philharmonic under Dmitri Mitropoulos presented the overture in Carnegie Hall.

A Russian band version of the overture was released in 1958 and utilized the standard instrumentation of the Russian military band, i.e., a complete orchestral wind, brass and percussion section plus a full family of saxhorns, ranging from the Bb soprano down through the Bb contrabass saxhorn. This new edition has been scored for the instrumentation of the American symphonic band.

The Festive Overture is an excellent curtain raiser and contains one of Shostakovich's greatest attributes -- the ability write a long sustained melodic line combined with a pulsating rhythmic drive. In addition to the flowing melodic passages, there are also examples of staccato rhythmic sections which set off the flowing line and the variant fanfares. It is truly a "festive overture."

- Note from the score, by Donald Hunsberger

One of the most effective concert openers in the repertoire, Festive Overture is an audience-pleasing piece for fine high school and university ensembles. The technical woodwind lines, extended melodies, and exposed brass fanfares will provide a variety of challenges for most any ensemble. It should be noted that the fourth trumpets [and euphoniums] are assigned a formidable part, doubling an upper woodwind melody that requires technique, facility and range. Thorough preparation is required, but Festive Overture is an exhilarating piece that will engage the audience.

- Program Note from Great Music for Wind Band

The gestation of Shostakovich’s Festive Overture has been subject to several different theories. One author claims that it was originally written in 1947, but was suppressed by Shostakovich along with many of his compositions created during this repressive period of Soviet history. Others believe that the celebratory quality of the overture displays Shostakovich’s relief at the death of Josef Stalin (in 1953), whose regime had twice censored the composer and his music. Most probably, the work was commissioned for a gathering at the Bolshoi Theater in November of 1954, celebrating the 37th anniversary of the October Revolution. The conductor, Vasili Nebolsin, realized that he had no appropriate piece to open the high-profile concert. He approached Shostakovich, who was at the time a musical consultant at the Bolshoi. The composer set to work, and the overture was completed in three days, the individual pages of the score being taken by courier before the ink had dried to copyists waiting at the theater to create the orchestra parts. Although written in haste, the overture has proved to be one of Shostakovich’s most frequently performed works.

- Program Note from University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Wind Ensemble concert program, 19 November 2015

In November 1954, Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre sent an urgent appeal to Dmitri Shostakovich. A concert marking the anniversary of the Russian Revolution was days away, and the theater needed a celebratory piece to open it. Could he create one quickly? Almost overnight, Shostakovich tossed off his Festive Overture, perhaps the most exuberant work he ever composed.

The rousing piece tested Shostakovich again in 1962. After seeing Igor Stravinsky conduct, Shostakovich told his elder colleague that the podium tempted him, but “I don’t know how to not be afraid.” Nevertheless, when Shostakovich received an offer to conduct his overture and Cello Concerto a few months later, he agreed. Before the first rehearsal, his nerves were so frayed that he persuaded cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, the concert’s soloist, to help him polish off a half-liter of vodka. Even though the concert went over well, Shostakovich never conducted again.

- Program Note from University of Houston Moores School Wind Ensemble concert program, 11 February 2016


State Ratings

  • Alabama: AA
  • Arkansas: V
  • California: VI AA
  • Florida: VI
  • Georgia: VI
  • Iowa: V
  • Louisiana: V
  • Maryland: VI
  • Massachusetts: V
  • Minnesota: MN HS LEAGUE BAND GRADE 1
  • Minnesota: Category I
  • Mississippi: MS BAND CLASSES 4A, 5A, & 6A
  • New York: VI
  • North Carolina: VI
  • Oklahoma: VA
  • South Carolina: VI
  • Tennessee: VI
  • Texas: V
  • Virginia: VI
  • Wisconsin: A


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

  • Waltz No. 2 (Flex instrumentation) (arr. Brown) (post 1956/2021)

All Wind Works