Shostakovich wrote two cello concertos for his great friend Mstislav Rostropovich.
Cello Concerto No. 1 was written in 1959, a difficult year for the composer. His second marriage was failing, and he was suffering from a debility in his right hand that hampered his ability to write, and to play the piano. His personal circumstances could not help but to colour this dark and uncompromising cello concerto. The angular motifs in the first movement grate against one another, and the slow movement touches depths of feeling unheard in Shostakovich’s works since the First Violin Concerto a decade earlier.
Shostakovich’s inspiration for the concerto was Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto for cello and orchestra. He loved this work, and told Rostropovich that he had played the recording of it so many times that it eventually wore out completely and only emitted a kind of hiss when he put it on his gramophone player.
Cello Concerto No. 2 was written seven years later, in 1966. It was premiered at the composer’s sixtieth birthday concert with Mstislav Rostropovich as soloist. Until the very last moment it was doubtful that Shostakovich himself would attend, as he had recently suffered a heart attack. In the end, he did make it to the concert, and both he and the new concerto were rapturously received. In the words of Rostropovich, this work is ‘less striking [than its predecessor]… but its profundity is second to none’.
The works are here performed by the cellist Enrico Dindo, whom Rostropovich himself described as ‘a cellist of exceptional qualities, a complete artist and a formed musician, with an extraordinary sound which flows as a splendid Italian voice’. Dindo has performed with the BBC Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Orchestre national de France, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra, among others, under conductors such as Valery Gergiev and Rostropovich. On this recording he is accompanied by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra under Gianandrea Noseda, an exclusive Chandos artist.