The two works recorded here have an interestingly close musical relationship that is belied by their radically different sound-worlds. Prokofiev’s first work for cello and orchestra was abandoned by the composer after an unsuccesful premiere, and the full score remained unpublished for years. However, a rising star barely in his twenties, Mstislav Rostropovich, found a copy with piano accompaniment and impressed the composer with his performance in December 1947. As Rostropovich remembered from their backstage encounter: ‘Prokofiev told me that after listening carefully to the Concerto he had decided to rewrite it. I reminded him of this each time I met him after that, but without success.’ What followed, in fact, was a completely new work—the Sonata for cello and piano Op 119—and the premiere of that, with Rostropovich eloquently partnered by Sviatoslav Richter (a recording survives), finally persuaded the now-ailing composer to the dramatic revision of the original Concerto. The resulting Symphony-Concerto is now acknowledged as one of the composer’s late masterpieces.
The young German virtuoso Alban Gerhardt was the soloist in a performance at the BBC Proms in 2008 that convinced a loudly appreciative audience of the merits of this work.
It has been recorded here with the first verson, Cello Concerto No 1, a work of undeniable importance to scholars and music-lovers alike. Andrew Litton conducts the Bergen Symphony Orchestra in their second disc for Hyperion.