Oh! can that boy foxtrot!
It has long been a bone of contention as to whether Shostakovich was an artist who supported the regime in Soviet Russia, tailoring his works to suit the whims of the state or whether he deeply resented the loss of artistic freedom that such a system imposed upon him, writing works pregnant with disaffection and disappointment. The argument continues to rage, but it is all too easy to see only the super-serious, political composer and ignore the fact that Shostakovich was flesh and blood and perhaps even cracked the occasional smile.
The well-known song,'Tea for Two' with music by Victor Youmans was premiered in the US in 1925 as a number in the hit musical,'No, No, Nanette'. The song, a foxtrot, was an instant success, not only in the States, but soon after in the Soviet Union, where it was known as 'Tahiti Trot'. Shostakovich, on a break with the conductor Nikoli Malkov was challenged to arrange the song for inclusion in a concert of the composer's works to be conducted by Malkov in Moscow in late 1928. Legend has it that, accepting the invitation, around 45 minutes later the youthful Shostakovich returned with a rip-roaring arrangement of the song, much to Malkov's delight. John Wallace and his Wallace collection give a big, brassy, sassy account of the Tahiti Trot that can loosen even the most hardened politician's scowl.