Violin Concerto No 1 in A minor, op 99
by Dmitri Shostakovich
David Oistrakh, violin
Heinz Fricke, conductor
Oistrakh characterised the first movement Nocturne as "a suppression of feelings", and the second movement Scherzo as "demoniac". The Scherzo is also notable for an appearance by the DSCH motif—a motif that reoccurs in many of the composer's works representing Shostakovich himself. Boris Schwarz (Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia, 1972), commented on the Passacaglia's "lapidary grandeur" and the Burlesque's "devil-may-care abandonment". The beginning of the Passacaglia is also notable for its juxtaposition of the invasion or Stalin theme from the Seventh Symphony and the fate motif from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
The concerto lasts around 35 minutes and has four movements, with a cadenza linking the final two:
Nocturne: Moderato – A semi-homage to the first movement of Elgar's Cello Concerto.
Scherzo: Allegro – Demonic dance. The DSCH motif can be heard in the background at times, with a final appearance near the end in the solo violin part.
Passacaglia: Andante – Cadenza (attacca) – Utilizes Beethoven's fate motif, incorporating it into the pre-burlesque cadenza. The DSCH motif is incorporated into a set of chords in the cadenza.
Burlesque: Allegro con brio – Presto – The theme in the solo violin's entrance resembles that of the solo flute's entrance in Stravinsky's Petrouchka.
The work is scored for solo violin, three flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), three oboes, cor anglais, three clarinets (3rd doubling bass clarinet), two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, tuba, timpani, tambourine, tam-tam, xylophone, celesta, two harps and strings.
The concerto is sometimes numbered as Opus 99, although because of the delay between composition and performance it was originally listed as Opus 77. Because of the uncertainty of the political climate, Shostakovich shelved the concerto until after Stalin's demise, and then released the concerto as Opus 99. For this reason, Opus 77 was then allocated to Three Pieces for Orchestra—a work little known outside of Russia and Shostakovich scholars.
The First Violin Concerto was composed during the post-war years in Soviet Russia (1947–48), a time of severe censorship. A new censorship decree had been issued in 1934 that required advance screenings of concerts, plays, and ballets at least ten days prior to their premieres, and seats in the concert halls were reserved for censors. Grounds for banning a work included anti-Soviet propaganda, lack of proper ideological perspective, and the lack of perceived artistic merit. In the 1950s, the focus of Soviet censorship shifted to literary works. Because of this hostile environment, Shostakovich kept the concerto unpublished until Stalin's death in March 1953 and the thaw that followed. Music historian Boris Schwarz notes that during the post-war years, Shostakovich divided his music into two idioms. The first was "simplified and accessible to comply with Kremlin guidelines" while the second was "complex and abstract to satisfy [Shostakovich's] own artistic standards" ; the First Violin Concerto, given the complex nature of its composition, undoubtedly falls into the second category and as such was not premiered until 1955.
Renowned Soviet violinist David Oistrakh gave the premiere of the First Violin Concerto on 29 October 1955 with the Leningrad Philharmonic with Mravinsky conducting. It was well received in Russia and abroad as an "extraordinary success".
The Concerto was written for Oistrakh, and Shostakovich initially played the work for the violinist in 1948. In the intervening years, the Concerto was edited by Shostakovich and Oistrakh. Oistrakh's two recordings of the Concerto are widely considered the definitive recordings of the work.
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The First Violin Concerto is not only a major individual accomplishment of Shostakovich but also a major contributor to the violin concerto in its four-movement form.
Because of the delay before its premiere, it is unknown whether or not the concerto was composed before the Tenth Symphony (1953). While the Symphony is generally thought to have been the first work that introduces Shostakovich's famous DSCH motif, it is possible that the First Violin Concerto was actually the first instance of the motif, where it appears in the second movement. The letters DSCH are arranged in a German 'spelling' of the composer's initials on the staff in an inversion of a  tetrachord and are usually arranged as close together pitch-wise as possible. Shostakovich uses this theme in many of his works to represent himself.
The Concerto is symphonic in form, adopting the four movements from the symphony and adopting programmatic movement titles like those of Brahms. The first movement, a nocturne, is, formally speaking, an elaboration on a fantasy form. The violin solo is prefaced by a brief orchestral interlude that serves to propose the melodic sentence upon which the violin solo later meditates, adding rhythmic and melodic motifs as the movement goes on. The movement starts pianissimo, and by the time it reaches its first dynamic peak, all of the substantial melodic and rhythmic information has already been presented.
The second movement is the diabolic scherzo, featuring uneven metric stresses set against a steady rhythmic pulse. The solo violin in this movement has the freedom to be wildly virtuosic, and much of the movement, due to its upbeat tempo, and rhythmic plays, seems to be derived from popular folk or peasant music. It is a complexly naïve movement: the mechanical feel of the rhythmic pulse, the support beam for the entire movement, suggest the Russian peasant, while the exhibitionism in the solo violin is anything but simple. This peasant motif will be later explored in the finale, where it is presented more obviously, without the fireworks of the solo layered on top of it, but less convincingly, for the same reason.
The Passacaglia, perhaps the most famous movement of the concerto, is quite the opposite of the lively Scherzo, but it serves to reinstate melody to the concerto. The Nocturne and the Passacaglia are related not only in speed and length but also in melodic growth and symphonic quality. The Passacaglia has the most emotional depth of the entire concerto and allows for much expression on the part of the soloist. This movement ends in an exceptionally long cadenza which also allows for exceptional emotional quality and leads seamlessly into the Burlesque finale.
2 Repertorio y grabaciones
3 Labor pedagógica
4 Últimos años
5 Enlaces externos
Óistraj recibió sus primeras enseñanzas del pedagogo del violín Piotr Stoliarski. Al contrario de lo que comúnmente se cree, Óistraj no poseyó de niño unas dotes extraordinarias que revelaran la categoría sobresaliente que llegó a alcanzar con el violín. De hecho comenzó tocando la viola en la orquesta del Conservatorio. Sólo un par de meses después subió de nivel a solista e hizo su debut ejecutando el Concierto en la menor de Johann Sebastian Bach.
Un año después, hizo su debut como intérprete solista, sin orquesta. Los siguientes dos años hizo gira en solitario por Rusia, y finalmente debutó en Leningrado con el Concierto para violín y orquesta de Tchaikovsky.
En 1935 Óistraj quedó en segundo lugar en el Premio Wieniawski, perdiendo ante Ginette Neveu, solista de 15 años de edad. Esto borra el mito de que Óistraj haya nacido siendo virtuoso. Finalmente dejó huella en la escena internacional al ganar el premio más importante en el Concurso Reina Isabel en Bruselas en 1937. Desde ese momento la carrera de Óistraj quedó establecida, excepto por un pequeño freno -la Unión Soviética era sumamente protectora de su gente y se negaba a dejarlo ir. Continuó enseñando en el Conservatorio de Moscú, pero cuando Rusia fue a la guerra contra Hitler, fue a las líneas del frente y tocó ante las tropas para mantenerles la moral alta.
Repertorio y grabaciones
Óistraj estrenó muchas obras de compositores contemporáneos, a menudo escritas expresamente para él.
Sus grabaciones e interpretaciones de los conciertos para violín de Shostakóvich y Prokófiev son muy conocidos, pero también interpretaba conciertos clásicos. Trabajó con orquestas en Rusia, y con músicos en Europa y los Estados Unidos. Otra grabación famosa es la que hizo junto con Sviatoslav Richter y Mstislav Rostropóvich del Triple Concierto de Beethoven dirigidos por Herbert von Karajan. Aram Jachaturián y Shostakóvich le dedicaron sus conciertos para violín, además de convencer a Prokófiev para hacer un arreglo de su sonata para flauta y convertirla en la segunda sonata para violín y piano.
David Óistraj fue padre del violinista Ígor Óistraj. Ambos hicieron varias grabaciones juntos.
Óistraj fue un respetado pedagogo, que pasó sus mejores años en la facultad del Conservatorio de Moscú, junto a personajes como Yuri Yankelévich y Borís Goldstéin.
Oistrakh sufrió un ataque cardiaco en 1964 al que sobrevivió para continuar trabajando. Se convirtió en uno de los principales embajadores de la cultura de la Unión Soviética, ofreciendo conciertos y realizando grabaciones. En 1974, después de concluir un ciclo de Brahms con la Concertgebouw Orchestra en Ámsterdam, sufrió un nuevo ataque al corazón, causa por la que finalmente murió.
Sus restos fueron devueltos a Moscú, donde fue sepultado en el Cementerio Novodévichi.
Oistrakh collaborated with major orchestras and musicians from many parts of the world, including the Soviet Union, Europe, and the United States, and was the dedicatee of numerous violin works, including both of Dmitri Shostakovich's violin concerti, and the violin concerto by Aram Khachaturian. He is considered one of the preeminent violinists of the 20th century.
He was born in the cosmopolitan city of Odessa in the Russian Empire (now Ukraine) into a Jewish family. His father was David Kolker and his mother was Isabella Beyle (née Stepanovsky), who later on married Fishl Oistrakh. At the age of five, young Oistrakh began his studies of violin and viola as a pupil of Pyotr Stolyarsky. In his studies with Stolyarsky he made very good friends with Daniel Shindarov, with whom he performed numerous times around the world, even after becoming famous, as students at Stolyarsky School of Music. He would eventually come to perform predominately on violin.
In 1914, at the age of six, Oistrakh performed his debut concert. He entered the Odessa Conservatory in 1923, where he studied until his graduation in 1926. In the Conservatory he also studied harmony with composer Mykola Vilinsky. His 1926 graduation concert consisted of Bach's Chaconne, Tartini's Devil's Trill Sonata, Rubinstein's Viola Sonata, and Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major. In 1927, Oistrakh appeared as soloist playing the Glazunov Violin Concerto under the composer's own baton in Kiev, Ukraine—a concert which earned him an invitation to play the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in Leningrad with the Philharmonic Orchestra under Nikolai Malko the following year.
In 1927, Oistrakh relocated to Moscow, where he gave his first recital and met his future wife: pianist Tamara Rotareva (1906-1976). They were married a year later, and had one child, Igor Oistrakh, who was born in 1931. Igor Oistrakh would follow his father's path as a violinist, and eventually performed and recorded side-by-side with his father, including Bach's Double Concerto, which they first recorded in 1951, and Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante. In at least one of the recordings of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante, Igor Oistrakh played violin, while David Oistrakh played viola.
From 1934 onwards, David Oistrakh held a position teaching at the Moscow Conservatory, and was later made professor in 1939. Some of his colleagues while teaching at the Moscow Conservatory included Yuri Yankelevich and Boris Goldstein. Oistrakh taught Oleg Kagan, Emmy Verhey, Gidon Kremer, Zoya Petrosyan, Victor Danchenko, Cyrus Forough, Olga Parhomenko, and his son Igor Oistrakh.
From 1940 to 1963, Oistrakh performed extensively in a trio that also included the cellist Sviatoslav Knushevitsky and the pianist Lev Oborin. It was sometimes called the 'Oistrakh Trio.' Oistrakh collaborated extensively with Oborin, as well as Jacques Thibaud, a French violinist.
During World War II
During World War II, he was active in the Soviet Union, premiering new concerti by Nikolai Miaskovsky and Khachaturian as well as two sonatas by his friend Sergei Prokofiev. He was also awarded the Stalin Prize in 1942. The final years of the war saw the blossoming of a friendship with Shostakovich, which would lead to the two violin concertos and the sonata, all of which were to be premiered by and become firmly associated with Oistrakh in the following years. Oistrakh's career was set from this point, although the Soviet Union was "protective" of its people and refused to let him perform abroad. He continued to teach in the Moscow Conservatory, but when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, he went to the front lines, playing for soldiers and factory workers under intensely difficult conditions. Arguably one of the most heroic acts in his life was a performance of Tchaikovsky's violin concerto to the end in the central music hall during the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942 while central Stalingrad was being massively bombed by the German forces. However, other sources indicate that Oistrakh performed in Leningrad that winter. Whether Oistrakh performed in Stalingrad is unconfirmed.
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