Cellist Johannes Moser releases new CD: Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No.1 & Britten: Cello Symphony
Both works were originally composed for the great Mstislav Rostropovich who was the teacher of Moser’s own teacher David Geringas. “The Shostakovich is very precious to me,” Moser says, “so in a way, I feel like I am continuing the family line. The Shostakovich Concerto has been my most important musical companion since my teenage years. I played it at most of the defining, often competitive moments in my early career.” Those moments included the Jugend Musiziert competition where Moser won first-prize at age 16 and it was the piece he played when auditioning to study with David Geringas. Moser then performed the concerto with orchestra for the first time on his 18th birthday and again in the finals of the Tchaikovsky competition which he won in 2002. Moser has also performed the concerto with Mariss Janssons and the Concertgebouw Orchestra.
The Shostakovich concerto is characterized by vitality, humor and is very much an expression of the cellist’s virtuosity, but also has incredibly intimate moments. In the finale, Shostakovich quotes Stalin’s favorite song "Suliko" and turns it into a grimace. Since it had been six years after Stalin’s death, Shostakovich felt that he could be political in a sarcastic way without being deported right away.
As the title suggests, cello and orchestra are equal partners in Britten's "Symphony for Cello and Orchestra" op 68, creating what is at times the clarity of chamber music. This new recording continues Moser's exploration of 20th century cello concertos while building upon his masterful interpretations of cello sonatas by Britten.
“The Britten Cello Symphony is the total opposite of the Shostakovich,” Moser explains. “The cellist’s virtuosity and individual voice are no longer in the foreground and Britten truly turns the cello solo part into an integral element of very symphonic writing. I appreciated the opportunity not to be a counterpart to the orchestra but an integrated part of it.”
Both concerti are very personal statements of the composers, who were both outcasts in their society: Shostakovich being on the edge of deportation because of his controversial writing, and Britten because of his homosexuality. Both composers longed to be part of the society that was rejecting them in such a cruel way.