Violin Concerto No. 1 (Shostakovich)

From Academic Kids

The Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Opus 77, was originally written by Dmitri Shostakovich in 1947 -1948. He was still working on the piece at the time of the Zhdanov decree, and in the period following the composer's denunciation the work could not be performed. In the period between the work's initial completion and the first performance on 29 October 1955, the composer and its dedicatee, David Oistrakh, worked on a number of revisions. The work was finally premiered by the Leningrad Philharmonic under Yevgeny Mravinsky. It was well received, Oistrakh remarking on the "depth of its artistic content" and describing the violin part as a "pithy 'Shakespearian' role".

The work is scored for piccolo, three flutes, three oboes, cor anglais, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, double bassoon, four horns, tuba, timpani, tam-tam, xylophone, celesta, two harps and strings.

The concerto lasts around 35 minutes and has four movements, with a cadenza linking the final two:

  1. Nocturne
  2. Scherzo
  3. Passacaglia
  4. Burlesque

Oistrakh characterised the first movement as "a suppression of feelings", and the second as "demoniac". The scherzo is also notable for an appearance by the DSCH motif representing the composer himself. Boris Schwarz (Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia, 1972), commented on the passacaglia's "lapidary grandeur" and the burlesque's "devil-may-care abandonment". The beginning of the passacaglia is also notable for its juxtaposition of the invasion or Stalin theme from the Seventh Symphony and the fate motif from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

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