Piano Concerto No. 1
Leningrad Philharmonic Bolshoi Hall; Dmitri Shostakovich (piano), Aleksandr Shmidt (trumpet), Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, Fritz Stiedry.
Moscow, Muzgiz, 1934
RSALA, rec. gr. 653, inv. 1, f. 2266a (score); the Glinka All-Russia Museum Association of Musical Culture, rec. gr. 32, f. 41 (2 piano score)
"... I cannot describe the contents of my Concerto by any means other than those I used to write it... I am a Soviet composer. I perceive this age as a heroic one, stimulating and incredibly invigorating. This is what I sought to convey in my Concerto."
Piano concerto No. 1
Shostakovich composed his first piano concerto in the spring and summer of 1933.
According to a contemporary, ‘Shostakovich′s conversation with Fritz Stiedry, the director of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, gave him the impetus to compose this work. The conductor said he would like a new piano concerto to feature in the following season.’
There is a note on the last page of the author’s manuscript of the score: ‘Begun 6 III 33 in Leningrad. Finished 20 VII 33 in Peterhof.’ There is also a similar inscription on the title page of the author’s manuscript, and the same dates on the first page of the score. Finally, these same dates also appear in the author’s manuscript of the arrangement of the concerto for two pianos. But there is a note at the end of the finale in the rough drafts of the author’s manuscript of the concerto indicating the place and time the rough draft was finished: ‘19 VII Peterhof’ (this date is coming into academic circulation for the first time).
It stands to reason that turning the rough draft into a full score and four-hand piano score, which was a detailed arrangement of this score, could not have happened in just one day. So we have to presume that work on the score was going on at the same time as work on the rough drafts and that the composer orchestrated the fragments of the work already completed in the drafts before he finished the four-part composition in its entirety.
It goes without saying that the piano score was completed after the score was finished. This possibly explains the fact that it was in the author’s manuscript of the piano score that the composer made a note documenting not only the date of completion, but also the date work on the composition began. It is worth noting that at first he placed both dates on the title page of the arrangement, but later, after crossing them out there, he wrote them at the end of the author’s manuscript.
The author’s manuscripts of the surviving score, piano score and, what is particularly important, rough drafts (apart from the first movement) of the concerto show that the work did not undergo significant polishing or rearrangement.
Shostakovich first mentioned that he was working on the concerto in the spring (in March or April). “I am experiencing an immense creative uplift at the moment,” he wrote. ‘I have finished the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, and I have written Twenty-Four Preludes for Piano. Now I am writing a piano concerto…”
Relating soon after the concerto premiere the reasons that prompted him to turn to this genre, Shostakovich said: ‘It is my first attempt to fill a large gap in the Soviet orchestral repertoire, in which there are no major concerto works.’
There can be no doubt that when composing the concerto, the composer’s primary wish was to replenish his own repertoire: in the mid-1930s he was actively giving concerts as a pianist, and the new work provided him with the opportunity to appear as the performer of his own music, not only solo, but also with an orchestra. The concerto immediately became part of Shostakovich the pianist’s repertoire, and for a long time to come. Many years later, he performed it in his last concert abroad, during his stay in France.
The premiere of the First Piano Concerto was held on 15 October 1933 in the Grand Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic. Fritz Stiedry conducted the symphony orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonic and orchestra musician, Alexander Schmidt, performed the trumpet solo.
‘The author played this composition with great conviction and captivating dynamism,’ the composer’s biography documents. ‘He made even those who did not really like this kind of music sit up and listen.’
Today, Shostakovich’s First Concerto is one of the most popular piano concertos of the 20th century.
- National Orchestra of French Radio and Television. Soloist: D. Shostakovich Conductor: A. Kluitans 1955 // Russian CD R 10 00319 (stereo R10 00321), 1991
- English chamber orchestra. Conductor: Maksymyuk E. 1983 // HMV 5 73047 2, 1998
State chamber orchestra "Moscow Virtuosi". Soloist: V. Krainev Conductor: Spivakov V. 1982 // Le Chant du Monde LDC 278 1011, 1989
- New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Soloist: A. Preven Conductor: Bernstein L. 1962 // Sony Classical SMK 47618, 1993
- Orchestra of Jean-Francois Peyard. Soloist: D’Arco A. Conductor: Peyard J. 1969 // ERATO 0630-11072-2, 1995
- Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra. Soloist: Balogova D. Conductor: Cote I. 1975 // PANTON 81 1309-2, 1993
- St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Soloist: Leonskaya E. Conductor: Wolf H. 1991 // TELDEC 9031-73282-2, 1993
- Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam. Soloist: R. Brautigam. Conductor: Shayi R. 1988 // DECCA 433702-2 D H, 1993
- Württemberg Chamber Orchestra, Heilbronn. Soloist: Argerich M. Conductor: Fairber J. 1993 // Deutsche Grammophon 439 864-2 G H, 1994
- New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Soloist: A. Preven Conductor: Bernstein L. 1962 // PORTRAIT CBS MPK 44850, 1988
- I musici de Montreal. Soloist: Shostakovich M.D. Conductor: Shostakovich M.D. 1984 // CHANDOS CHAN 8357, 1985
- Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Soloist: Rudy M. Conductor: Jansons M. 1994 // EMI 7243 5 55361 2 9, 1995