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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 6, Number 1, March 2012

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Autumn Noelle Hall
Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, USA


Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 107

In 1958, five years after Joseph Stalin's death, the Congress of Soviet Composers' Party Resolution, which had for a decade censured Russian musicians, was finally lifted. Forced to withhold his best works for so long, Dmitri Shostakovich was at last freed to compose his first cello concerto. On August Second of 1959, he gave the completed manuscript to his friend, cello virtuoso Mstistlav Rostropovich. Just four days later, Rostropovich, accompanied by Shostakovich on piano, performed the four-movement work from memory three times. Recalling the occasion, Rostropovich said, "We were so happy, we drank a little vodka together. We then played it again, not so perfectly, and drank more vodka. The third time, I think I played the Saint-Saens Concerto while he accompanied his own concerto. We were very happy."

I.
Shostakovich's
jaunty Allegretto mocks
with savage bow strokes—
teased between its marching brass,
strains of Stalin's best-loved tune

II.
Jewish folk song haunts
Moderato melody . . .
the keening cello's
harmonics threading light
through smoke and ash

III.
cello Cadenza
this solo heart beating
a duet's dirge
left-hand strumming strings
to right hand's bowed lament

IV.
a frenetic dance
woodwinds breathless behind
sawing strings' lead
Allegro con moto—
ants before a storm


Note: Informational and inspirational credit to Michael Campion for his Program Notes in the Colorado Springs Philharmonic Ninth Concert Season Magazine, Volume 1; musical performance credit to the Colorado Springs Philharmonic and featured cellist Julie Albers, and to YouTube for the online recording of Rostropovich playing Shostakovich's concerto. (YouTube Recording)

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