When Lynn Harrell and the Berkeley Symphony led by Music Director Joana Carneiro take on Witold Lutoslawski’s Cello Concerto, they will be taking a trip to the dark side that balances, in a radical way, the vivacity of Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances, also on the program.
Usually I don’t go in for the whole “soloist as hero” thing in solo concertos. If you push that idea too hard in performance, you’re not going to produce great music. The exception to the rule may be the cello concerto by the great Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski, in which the cellist gets interrupted regularly by stinging brass expostulations, which finally lead to an extraordinary finale where the back and forth between soloist and orchestra is particularly intense, until, in accord with the general idea of concertos, the cellist takes command.
Mstislav Rostropovich, whose dissident clashes with the Soviet government in Russia eventually led to his settling in the United States in 1974, commissioned the piece and premiered it in 1970. It was being composed during the events of the Prague Spring of 1968, and protests in Poland as well. Putting this work next to the romantic (and nostalgic?) Symphonic Dances is an expert piece of programming and should result in a rousing concert.
Michael Zwiebach is the senior editor/ content manager for SFCV. He assigns all articles and content, manages the writing staff and does editing. A member of SFCV from the beginning, Michael holds a Ph.D. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley.