Sarah Chang and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, have recorded the First Violin Concertos by Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev for EMI Classics. The recordings were taken from performances at Berlin’s Philharmonie in September and June 2005 respectively. The resulting CD is to be released in 2006, the centenary of Shostakovich’s birth and is Sarah Chang’s first concerto recording since her Dvoøák Violin Concerto CD with the London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis, released in 2003.
Sarah Chang said, “To be recording the Shostakovich and Prokofiev Concertos, which are extremely powerful and dramatic and poetic concertos, [with the Berlin Philharmonic] is a huge privilege. … The [Orchestra] has a very special place in my heart. I have been working with them since I was twelve … I feel extremely privileged every time I’m up on stage with them. … Sir Simon Rattle is an absolute genius, a musical godfather.”
Theo Lap, Vice-President of A&R and International Marketing, said, “It is always exciting to see artists working together on a recording for the first time. Both Sir Simon and Sarah are very passionate and energetic musicians and their interpretation of these wonderful works fully reflects this.”
The Berliner Morgenpost described Sarah Chang’s performance of the Shostakovich Concerto as “brilliant and original”; the Berliner Zeitung referred to her rendering of the Prokofiev Concerto as “… a first-class interpretation.”
While Shostakovich was at work on his first violin concerto in 1947, he and several other Soviet composers, including Prokofiev, were accused by the state of “anti-democratic tendencies in music,” “formalistic perversion,” and favouring “confused, neurotic combinations that transform music into cacophony.” Shostakovich completed his score but chose to withhold it from performance and publication, knowing that its “long, rhapsodic nocturne that comes from the blackest hour of the night” (Phillip Hulscher) would not please the authorities. It was only after Stalin died in 1953 that the climate in the Soviet Union changed and Shostakovich, having made minor changes to the score, permitted the Violin Concerto to see the light of day. It was performed and recorded by its dedicatee, David Oistrakh, in 1955.
Sergei Prokofiev began work on a Concertino for violin in 1915, shortly after returning to St. Petersburg from a trip to Europe where he had heard Stravinsky’s Firebird and Petrouchka, Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, a performance by Feodor Chaliapin and a concert conducted by Richard Strauss, all of which had excited him tremendously. Prokofiev abandoned the Concertino after composing its enchanting opening melody but a performance of Szymanowski’s Myths by the Polish violinist Paul Kochanski, in 1916, inspired him to return to what had become a violin concerto. With Kochanski’s assistance, he finished the work in 1917, the year he also composed his “Classical” Symphony, Piano Concerto No.3, Piano Sonatas Nos.3 and 4 and Visions fugitives for piano. Had the Bolshevik revolution not intervened, Kochanski would have premiered the Violin Concerto but, in the event, the premiere took place six years later, in Paris, with Marcel Darrieux as soloist, and Serge Koussevitzky conducting. David Oistrakh later became the concerto’s leading interpreter.
Sarah Chang’s EMI discography includes the violin concertos of Mendelssohn, Bruch, Tchaikovsky, Dvoøák, Paganini No.1, Goldmark, Sibelius, Richard Strauss and Vieuxtemps No.5, as well as Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole, Saint-Saëns’s Havanaise and Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso and chamber music by Dvoøák, Tchaikovsky, Franck, Ravel and Saint-Saëns.
In 2006, Sarah performs the Prokofiev No.1, Brahms, Sibelius and Bruch No.1 Violin Concertos with the San Francisco and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestras, the London and Danish National Symphony Orchestras, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Bavarian State Opera Orchestra, and Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under conductors Marek Janowski, Yuri Temirkanov, Kurt Masur and Mikko Frank.