Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Before There Was The Shostakovich Centennial There Were Dmitri Shostakovich And Mstislav Rostropovich, Working And Struggling Artists And Humanists

With all best wishes to Mstislav Rostropovich for a speedy recovery, and with congratulations and best wishes to Galina Vishnevskaya on her eightieth birthday, today ...


"Shostakovich composed his Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 107 in 1959 for Mstislav Rostropovich, who gave the first performance on October 4 of that year, in Leningrad. Mr. Rostropovich was the conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra's first performances of this work, in observance of the 70th anniversary of the composer's birth, on September 25 and 26, 1976, on which occasion the soloist was David Geringas; Mr. Rostropovich was also either the soloist or the conductor in all the NSO's subsequent performances of the Concerto ...

In addition to the solo cello, the score calls for 2 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons and contrabassoon, horn, timpani, celesta, and strings. Duration, 28 minutes.


Shostakovich's four concertos for solo string instruments--two each for violin and for cello--are all works of his maturity, brought out in the last two decades of his life. Both of the violin concertos were composed for David Oistrakh, both of the cello concertos for Mstislav Rostropovich, and it happened that each of those dedicatees introduced his respective First Concerto to the United States and recorded it here within a few weeks of the Soviet premiere. Like the Tenth Symphony, with which the First Violin Concerto is contemporaneous, and the chamber works of those years, these concertos are not only substantial but profound, filled with the composer's personal feelings, expressed with his characteristic urgency and, in the case of the present work, with a conciseness not always encountered in his symphonies."...

© Richard Freed. All rights reserved.

Full Program Note to this great musical work.


Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1906, Dmitri Shostakovich was the leading Soviet composer of the mid-20th century. He studied piano with his mother, then at the Petrograd Conservatory (1919-1925). His graduation piece, Symphony No. 1, brought him early international attention.

Like many Soviet composers of his generation, he had to write under the pressures of government-imposed standards of Soviet art. His first two operas, The Nose (1930) and Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (1934) received popular and critical acclaim, but Party publications condemned them. However, his Symphony No. 5 (1937) and No. 6 (1939) were well received by both the Party and the public. Afterward he devoted himself primarily to symphonies, concertos and quartets.

He settled in Moscow in 1943 as a teacher of composition at the Conservatory, and from 1945 he taught also at the Leningrad Conservatory. In 1948 he was condemned again, and for five years wrote little besides patriotic cantatas, quartets, preludes and fugues.. Stalin's death in 1953 opened the way to less rigid aesthetic control. In 1956 he received the supreme Soviet honor, the Order of Lenin.

Shostakovich visited the United States in 1949, and 1958. He also made an extended tour of Western Europe, including Italy and Great Britain, where he received an honorary doctorate of music at the University of Oxford. In 1966 he was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society's Gold Medal. Works produced during his life include two operas, 15 symphonies, two violin concertos, two cello concertos, two piano concertos, ballet music, songs and scores for motion pictures.

Rostropovich, Oistrakh, Richter, and Karajan.

Mstislav Rostropovich was born in what is now Baku, Azerbaijan; David Oistrakh was born in what is now Odesa, Ukraine; and Sviatoslav Richter was born in what is now Zhitomir,Ukraine . Herbert von Karajan was born in Salzburg, the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Photo credit: © Siegfried Lauterwasser


Post a Comment

<< Home