Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra in A minor, Op.129

The Concerto for Cello in A minor Op 129 was composed for two weeks only – between October 10th and 24th 1850. Schuman was the conductor of the Dresden Symphonic Orchestra in that time. He poured out his composition with ecstatic inspiration, later though he began considering new and new details, edited the score (he did it in the last days before his suicide attempt – he threw himself into the waters of the Rhine). In a letter to the publishers of Breitkopf & Härtel, who printed the work (after it was rejected by two other publishers), he noted: “The cello concerto is a rather cheerful work”.

In the original score, this opus is referred to as the Konzertstück (concert piece) – thus Schumann expressed his intention to go beyond the canon of the genre. He created a kind of poem in three parts without interruption, for solo instrument and orchestra – exciting and beautiful, dreamy and passionate. “Supreme Expressiveness” was the categorical instruction of the composer for the performance of the second part of the concert – the “heart” of the creation. But the way to it lays through the layers of diverse emotions, soul movements, which the first part exposes. The dotted rhythm of the finale expresses strong-willed aspiration, but at the same time brings the feeling of restlessness. The lines of the cello – flying thoughts-passages find enlightenment in the code. (Again, we will note the unconventionality of Schumann – the cadence of the soloist is in partnership with the orchestra, not the traditional solo virtuoso improvisation!).

The premiere of the work was four years after the composer’s death – on April 23rd , 1860 in Leipzig, the soloist being Ludwig Ebert and the Court Chapel of Oldenburg, conducted by concertmaster Karl Franzen. Ebert performed it again two months later, that time with piano accompaniment, to celebrate the composer’s 50th birthday. In 1963, Shostakovich re-orchestrated the concerto, enriching the timbre of the orchestra – adding harp, brass and percussion instruments, and several famous cellists (Cosman, Popper, Navarra, Casals, Piatigorsky, etc.) left their cadences for the final.

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