Shostakovich First Symphony 24 years later

The last time I had played Shostakovich’s first symphony was in 1988, as “Solo-Cellist” of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival orchestra with Leonard “just call me Lennie” Bernstein (or ‘Bear-rrn-shtine’ the way the Germans pronounce it — it’s actually the German name for amber, and he wore a big ole necklace made of huge chunks of the stone.)

In my current role of “Acting Assistant Principal Cello” (now there’s a long-winded moniker!) I’m leading the section this entire week, so I looked forward eagerly to playing it for the second time. I was bemused in the rehearsal that I suddenly got nervous on the last note — why then? It’s over by then! It’s a great piece, sardonic at first, then tragic. The cello solo in the last movement is, I think, the quiet apotheosis of the whole work, incredibly satisfying to play.

I wanted to go out and celebrate after, but got the news that my grandfather had passed away at 5:30 pm.

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