Strings: Cellist Julian Schwarz on Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1

Laurence Vittes

Photo Credit: Matt Dine

Photo Credit: Matt Dine

Dmitri Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 107, was composed in 1959 for his friend Mstislav Rostropovich, who committed it to memory in four days and gave the premiere with Yevgeny Mravinsky conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra in the Large Hall of the Leningrad Conservatory.

It has attained mainstream popularity—more than 60 recordings fill the catalogue including five different performances by Rostropovich himself. Julian Schwarz has not recorded the concerto—yet—but he performed it with the Tucson Symphony in January, and will play it twice this fall, in Lake Forest, Illinois, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In other words, he’s all pumped up for Shostakovich.

In addition to being a virtuoso cellist, Schwarz likes to interact with his audiences—to find out what they feel, what captures their attention, what stands out as “formidable.” After he finished a 30-minute Shostakovich workout in Tucson, Arizona, he returned to the stage and recounted a master class he had led at the University of Arizona earlier in the day, then played five minutes of Bach for an encore.

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