Cello Concerto No.1, E Flat major, op.107

I. Allegretto
II. Moderato
III. Cadenza
IV. Allegro con moto

“My next large-scale work will be a concerto for cello and orchestra” –  declared Shostakovich in June 1959, to Sovietskaia Muzika. “I have already completed the first movement, an Allegretto with the character of a jokey march. All in all, the concerto will be in three movements. I find it hard to say anything definite about its content. Questions such as these, despite their naturalness and simplicity, always seem very hard to me. Since it is not uncommon that during composition, a work can change quite radically both in its form and range of expressive devices. Sometimes, in its genre as well. Therefore I can merely inform you that I have been planning this work for quite a long time. The initial impetus for its composition came when I first became acquainted with Serge Prokofiev's Symphonie Concertante for cello and orchestra..” As for the composition's ultimate form, the caution that Shostakovich witnesses in this statement proved to be highly justified. As he worked on it, the Cello Concert No. 1 swelled into a four movement work: Shostakovich placed an extended cadenza between the slow second movement with its evocation of Russian folk music, and the rondo form finale, labeling it as an independent movement. Its four movement character – which is relatively uncommon among concertos – also deeply influenced the works “content” (to use contemporary Soviet terminology), since the cadenza, which originally was a vehicle to allow the virtuosity of the soloist to shine, here is transformed into a veritable monologue, the lyrical frankness of which makes a sharp contrast with the disaffected sonorities that recur throughout the rest of the work (such as the “jokey” march). The composer completed his Cello Concerto No. 1 in the summer of 1959, and it was premiered on October 4th that same year. It was conducted by Evgeny Mravinsky, and the soloist was Mstislav Rostropovich, to whom the work is dedicated. Incidentally, it was Rostropovich who premiered the Prokofiev Symphonie Concertante which initially so inspired Shostakovich.

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