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Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
Head of a Peasant (detail) by Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935)
Russian State Museum, St Petersburg / AKG-Images, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67425
Recording details: April 2003
Caird Hall, Dundee, Scotland
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: November 2003
Total duration: 22 minutes 11 seconds

'Marc-André Hamelin is a superb advocate for all three pieces—the zip and zest of much of the writing presenting no difficulty to this extraordinary virtuoso.' (Gramophone)

'it's on the basis of interpretation that Hamelin earns a top recommendation here, and he's sympathetically supported by Litton and the excellent Scottish ensemble … those looking for their first recordings of the Shostakovich concertos won't go wrong with Hamelin' (Fanfare, USA)

Piano Concerto No 1 in C minor, Op 35

Allegro moderato  [5'40]
Lento  [8'27]
Moderato  [1'33]
Allegro con brio  [6'31]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Though something of a late beginner by prodigy standards, not having started lessons until he was nine, Shostakovich made such rapid strides as a pianist that he was soon playing Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier in its entirety and, by the age of fifteen, Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata. As a student he developed his piano-playing and his composing with more or less equal eagerness. He entered the first International Chopin Competition in 1927, where he progressed to the finals but was not a prizewinner – his Moscow friend Lev Oborin won first prize, and the legendary Grigory Ginzburg was placed fourth. Shostakovich reckoned that his performance was hampered by pain from appendicitis, and he suspected the Polish jury of not wanting to give too many prizes to the Russian contingent. At any rate that set-back was decisive for setting him on the path of composition as his main career. As a pianist he gradually narrowed the focus of his repertoire, still performing the first concertos of Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky until the end of 1930, but thereafter confining himself (except in chamber music) to his own works.

His own First Piano Concerto started life, at least according to the diaries of his pupil Evgeny Makarov, as a trumpet concerto, only gradually metamorphosing into the guise we now know. The trumpet part was apparently written with the principal of the Leningrad Philharmonic in mind – one Alexander Schmidt, whose playing in Skryabin’s Poem of Ecstasy and Mahler’s Fifth Symphony had recently been acclaimed. The period of composition, from March to July 1933, coincided with preparations for the staging of Shostakovich’s second opera, The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District, the official denunciation of which two-and-a-half years later would force him to reinvent himself as a composer. At this time he could still afford to take a confrontational attitude to the concerto genre without bringing censure down on his head. In fact this would be the first piano concerto of significance to emerge from Soviet Russia. Earlier examples, by Shaporin, Kabalevsky and Feynberg, failed to hold a place in the repertory, while Prokofiev’s five were products either of pre-Revolutionary times or of his Parisian exile, and Khachaturyan’s neo-romantic extravaganza would follow three years later.

The models and affinities for Shostakovich’s Concerto have to be sought outside Russia. In its mixture of frivolity, circus-like tumbling routines, and lyricism, it is a cousin of Ravel’s G major and Prokofiev’s Fifth (both premiered in 1932), and there is more than a hint of Gershwin’s Concerto in F (1925) in the slow movement and of Stravinsky’s Petrushka in the fast outer movements.

For the previous six years Shostakovich had been composing almost exclusively for stage and screen, and the impact of that can be heard throughout the Concerto, both in its willingness to quote or paraphrase a wide range of pre-existing music and in its restless shifting from one style to another. The first movement soon accelerates away from its thoughtful opening, the mood becoming cheekier with each ratcheting up of the tempo. The slow movement is a sorrowful slow waltz, whose reprise is led off by muted trumpet. Next comes a restless interlude as a kind of extended upbeat into a galop finale, whose uproarious pastiche of Beethoven’s Rondo ‘The Rage over the Lost Penny’ jostles for position with several other familiar or familiar-sounding themes.

Shostakovich himself gave the premiere of the Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings on 15 October 1933, with the Leningrad Philharmonic under their German émigré conductor, Fritz Stiedry. Thereafter it became a staple of his repertoire until the late-1950s, when illness began to affect the mobility of his right hand.

from notes by David Fanning © 2003

Other albums featuring this work
'Shostakovich & Shchedrin: Piano Concertos' (CDA30023)
Shostakovich & Shchedrin: Piano Concertos
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99Buy by post £8.50 CDA30023  Hyperion 30th Anniversary series — Last few CD copies remaining  
'Shostakovich & Shchedrin: Piano Concertos' (SACDA67425)
Shostakovich & Shchedrin: Piano Concertos
This album is not yet available for download SACDA67425  Super-Audio CD — Deleted  
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