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Concertino in A minor, Op. 94 for two pianos

December 19, 2017: Alessio Bax, piano; Lucille Chung, piano

Shostakovich composed his Concertino for two pianos in December 1953 for his sixteen-year-old son Maxim, who premiered it with another student, Alla Maloletkova, on November 8, 1954, at the Moscow Conservatory. (The erroneous date of January 20, 1954, is sometimes given as the date of the premiere. Scholar Laurel Fay has determined that no record of a performance on that date exists, though there was a performance on January 20, 1955.) The November concert was devoted to works of Shostakovich, including the song cycle From Jewish Poetry and the Piano Quintet with the composer at the piano. It was for his son that Shostakovich also wrote his Second Piano Concerto in 1957.

A one-movement work, the Concertino begins with an Adagio featuring serious unison octave pronouncements alternating with hymnlike passages. Soon, however, an exuberant Allegretto takes over, which the composer and his son take at a very fast tempo in their historic recording for Monitor Records. The jaunty second theme in Shostakovich’s “circus music” vein sounds as if he is making reference to a family joke. Development of both ideas remains lively, building to a shimmering climax. His recall of the hymnlike music over bass tremolo is striking, as is his tiptoeing return to his main theme and boisterous second theme. With immense drama Shostakovich briefly recalls both ideas of his opening Adagio before the main theme of his Allegretto makes a mad dash to the finish.

© Jane Vial Jaffe

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