Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich is often described as someone who had always been largely preoccupied with his personal phobias and emotional sufferings due to his country's unsettling political situation. A lot has been said about his constant fear of being arrested and imprisoned because of the "anti-Soviet" nature of his music and how his works are mostly of autobiographical nature.
While all of the above is indeed true, still, I believe that his music constitutes far more than just a personal diary of a man living in a dictatorial society. As in the case of any truly great music, his - proclaims the universal truths and therefore may - and ought to - be interpreted in many ways.
I would like to offer an interpretation of the composer's Cello Concerto No.1, which will attempt to emphasize the universality of the work. A strong connection with J.S. Bach is present here not only in the third movement, Cadenza, but indeed throughout the whole piece.
It is enough to just take a look at the way Shostakovich orchestrated the work. A very tidy, classicist choice of instruments, as well as a heavy emphasis on the french horn, which is in fact the second soloist in the work. The dialogue between the cello soloist and the french horn player begins in the first movement and continues through till the end of the piece. Thus, the instrumentation itself and the way Shostakovich makes these instruments interact makes one remember the Concerto Grosso genre.
I see this concerto as a clear-cut modernistic look at a Baroque Era, with a presence of numerous Russian "city romance" melodies and countryside songs, both of composer's own creation.
The work speaks to us with a quirky humor, as well as with some very deep philosophical ideas. I see the second movement (Andante) as a soul's eternal quest for self-realization. The Cadenza follows as a moment of deep meditation, which later becomes a bridge into the Finale, which, in turn, may be seen as a final dance of the humanity or that of a madman, or simply someone who has just had too much to drink (the latter was frequently the case with the composer himself).
Concert on 6th Dec 2014, Loyola Univerity, New Orleans. Full concert details here.