Works Instrumentations of Works by Other Composers

Robert Schumann. Cello Concerto. New Orchestration by D. Shostakovich.

Opus 123 Opus 126

Opus 125
1963 year

Shostakovich’s Orchestration of Cello Concertos by Schumann and Tishchenko


Moscow. Conservatory Bolshoi Hall. State Symphony Orchestra. Conductor B. Khaikin. Soloist M. Rostropovich.

first publication:

1966. “Muzyka” Publishers, Moscow,


The whereabouts of the author’s manuscript are unknown, but there is a handwritten copy done by the copyist, apparently based on the author’s manuscript, kept in the Russian National Museum of Music (RNMM), rec. gr. 32, f. 1689

   Shostakovich orchestrated Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor, op. 129 (1850), at Rostropovich’s prompting. Schumann’s Cello Concerto had been part of Rostropovich’s repertoire since the 1940s when he was a student at the conservatory. Before the beginning of the 1960s, Rostropovich repeatedly performed it at concerts and recorded it (there are recordings done under the baton of Samuel Samosud, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky and Benjamin Britten).
   Shostakovich also orchestrated the music of other composers (including Mussorgsky’s “Songs and Dances of Death” and Alexander Davidenko’s “On the Tenth Verst” and “The Turmoil in the Street”) during the lull in his artistic career that lasted for almost a year after completion of the Thirteenth Symphony (1962). The composer was working on the orchestration of Schumann’s Cello Concerto in July 1963 while on holiday at the Composers’ Union Resort in Dilijan (Armenia). Shostakovich later included it in his list of works as op. 125.
   Shostakovich worked on Schumann’s score as a composer, not as an editor. In effect, he orchestrated it anew. He altered the orchestra line-up by adding a piccolo flute and a harp and increasing the number of French horns from two (as in Schumann’s score) to four. He also numbered the movements, which the author had not done (in the original score the transfer from one movement to the next was designated by changes in tempo, key and a double dividing line; the beginning of the next movement was not indicated by a number).
   Rostropovich edited the solo part, changing it considerably compared with the original in terms of phrasing and music notation. This was noted in the commentary to the 1966 edition of the Concerto’s score published by Muzyka.
   The premiere of Schumann’s Cello Concerto orchestrated by Shostakovich was held in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory on 5 October 1963. The soloist was Mstislav Rostropovich, and the Soviet State Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Boris Khaykin, who was then a conductor at the Bolshoi Theatre. The only review we know of called the new version of Schumann’s Concerto “sparkling, ‘brilliant’ in its subtlety and elegance”. According to the reviewer, “Shostakovich was amazingly sensitive to the images of Schumann’s music, while giving genuine definition to all the elements of the orchestral fabric and bringing into full light the symphonic style and exuberant possibilities of the original”.