It’s interesting to sneak a peek into the minds of musicians, to get an idea of how the string of melodies came about, how the piece developed, how the recurring theme looped again and again, first in the musician’s head, then shared by everyone who gets to listen to the tune and catch the earworm.
The birth of some pieces may have romantic stories. Some are heroic, just as the agitation and vigour of the melodies would suggest. Some, though, have humble beginnings, as in, beginnings so humble you’d ask “Just that?” once you’ve heard the story.
The case in point is Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1, courtesy of “Good Music Guide”.
“The powerful opening theme is based on a Shostakovich favourite, the so-called DSCH theme. This theme is found in many of Shostakovich’s works, but most prominently in the 10th Symphony and this first Cello Concerto.
It is derived from Shostakovich’s name. In cyrillic text, it looks like this: Шостакович
When converted to its German form and given a western alphabet it becomes this: Schostakowitsch
If we take the first letter of his first name, “Dmitri” and the first three letters of his surname ‘S[c]hostakovich’, we get ‘DSCH’
And when these letters are translated to the German musical scale it becomes this:
The D remains D, the S becomes E flat (S in the German music scale), the C stays as C, and the H translates to B (often called H in German).
Though it may seem a bit of a contrived way to write music, Bach also used this technique, incorporating his own name into his fugues, most famously in the final Art of the Fugue left unfinished as he passed away.”
“Just that?” you may ask, but that only makes you wonder more – how the minds of musicians work…