Shostakovich composed most of his first violin concerto from 1947 to 1948, but was unable to premiere it until 1955. The composer’s decision to postpone the first public performance, presumably, was due to the musical climate of the Soviet Union. Shostakovich, along with other composers, was severely criticized by the government as too progressive in 1948, a time when composers were supposed to write serious music to spark the imagination of the common “people,” as envisioned by the socialist regime. The authorities decision would determine a composer’s fate. Shostakovich thought his violin concerto too modern for the authorities and hid it for seven years. Eventually, with Stalin’s death in 1953, the political suppression of the arts in Moscow was eased, and Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto was finally premiered on 29 October 1955 with the violinist David Oistrakh, the piece’s dedicatee, with the Leningrad Philharmonic under the direction of Evgeny Mravinsky.
Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 is in four movements. The first movement is a contemplative Nocturne. The second movement is a fierce Scherzo in sonata form. The third movement is a passionate, noble Passacaglia, a musical form of variations that originated in the seventeenth-century Spain. The finale is an exuberant, comical Burlesque.