It is hard to believe that Shostakovich composed his First Piano Concerto after his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. It seemed that with this tragic work the composer’s youth had disappeared forever and that he would never return to the eccentric style of his early compositions. But some time needed to pass, during which he wrote parodic and humorous pieces, before his series of grand and revelatory works, in particular his Fourth Symphony (1936). The First Piano Concerto stands in the middle of this intervening series of works.
For Shostakovich this was undoubtedly an experimental score. Compared to compositions by the leading exponents of musical neo-classicism at the time (Stravinsky, Hindemith), it does not appear too radical, but it reaches some sort of extreme as far as Shostakovich’s talents and tastes are concerned. Let us start with the orchestral components: strings, piano and trumpet solos. Of course, this is neo-baroque in the spirit of the aforementioned Hindemith. However, there is in Shostakovich something unique that departs from all contemporary baroque stylisation.