Piano Concerto No. 2 (Shostakovich)

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Dmitri Shostakovich in 1950

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, Op. 102, by Dmitri Shostakovich was composed in 1957 for the 19th birthday of his son Maxim (who later became a noted conductor). Maxim premiered the piece during his graduation concert at the Moscow Conservatory. It contains many similar elements to Shostakovich's Concertino for Two Pianos: both works were written to be accessible for developing young pianists.[1] It is an uncharacteristically cheerful piece, much more so than most of Shostakovich's works.[2]


The work is scored for solo piano, two flutes, piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, timpani, snare drum and strings.[3]


The concerto lasts around 20 minutes and has three movements, with the second movement played attacca, thereby moving directly into the third (although the second movement does come to an acceptable resolution in C minor, such that the third movement is not entirely necessary to bring the music to a conclusion):

  1. Allegro
    The first movement is in sonata form. The jolly main theme of the first movement is played first by the bassoon, then soon accompanied by the clarinets and oboes. The piano enters unobtrusively with an answering theme, played as single notes in both hands an octave apart. This evolves into a march-like theme. A new melodic theme in D minor is then introduced, with unisons two octaves apart on the piano, winding down to nothing. Then, an abrupt blast from the orchestra leads into tumultuous and low jumping octaves on the lower piano, while the orchestra plays a variation on the original piano melody fortissimo. The piano builds in a triplet pattern to introduce the D minor theme (now in Bb major) in an augmentation in a triumphant tutti. At the climax, everything comes to a silent pause, and the piano comes in with a fugue-like counterpoint solo. After a minute of the fugue, the orchestra comes back in, playing the melody in the high winds. The orchestra builds on the main melody while the piano plays scales and tremolos, which lead into a joyous few lines of chords and octaves by the piano, with the main theme finally resurfacing and bringing the movement to a close.
  2. Andante
    The second movement is subdued and romantic. It presents two different themes that are in variation form. The mood can be considered tender with a touch of melancholy. Strings start gently in C minor, with a short introduction before the piano comes in with a gentle triplet theme in C major. This type of rhythm is also found in his other compositions such as the Prelude in C major Op. 87 No. 1. Although it remains slow throughout, and works within a comparatively small range, it is marked by the recurrence of two- or four-on-three rhythms.
  3. Allegro
    The finale is a lively dance in duple time, making much use of pentatonic scales and modes. Soon, the second theme is introduced, in 7
    time, with the piano accompanied by balalaika-like pizzicato strings. It gives an impression of what parades and processions were like in the Soviet Era. This carries on for a short time before a new motif arrives in "Hanon" exercise mode, with scales in sixths and semiquaver runs, this being the joke for Maxim's graduation. These three themes are then developed and interwoven before a final statement of the 7
    theme and finally a virtuoso coda in F major.[4]


In a letter to Edison Denisov in mid-February 1957, barely a week after he had finished work on it, the composer himself wrote that the work had "no redeeming artistic merits". It has been suggested that Shostakovich wanted to pre-empt criticism by deprecating the work himself (having been the victim of official censure numerous times), and that the comment was actually meant to be tongue-in-cheek. In April 1957, he and his son performed a two piano arrangement of the work for the Ministry of Culture, and then it was later premiered for the public at the Moscow Conservatory.[1]

Despite the apparently simple nature of this concerto, the public has always regarded it warmly, and it stands as one of Shostakovich's most popular pieces. In 2017, the concerto was voted 19th in the Classic FM Hall of Fame.[5]


Despite his dismissal of the concerto, the composer performed it himself on a number of occasions, and recorded it along with his first concerto. Both are played at fast tempo rarely matched in modern recordings. On the third recording, one can hear some of the passages played by Shostakovich were not as clean and it was a sign of his deteriorating hand. In his recordings of the second movement, Shostakovich presents slight variations in some passages that are not written in the score. Some examples include a repeated chord Shostakovich plays from bar 33 that is from the first beat of bar 34 is written as a tie in the score.[1]

Maxim's own son, Dmitri Maximovich Shostakovich, has also recorded the piece, with his father conducting I Musici de Montreal. Identical in bearing to his famous grandfather, Dmitri the younger also matches his grandfather's frenetic speed and expression very closely.

Other recordings include those by Leonard Bernstein as soloist and conductor for Columbia Records, Marc-André Hamelin for Hyperion Records, and Dmitri Alexeev with Jerzy Maksymiuk conducting the English Chamber Orchestra. There has been a recording of this concerto by the Mariinsky Orchestra with soloist, Denis Matsuev and Valery Gergiev as conductor.[6]

In Fantasia 2000, Yefim Bronfman plays the concerto's first movement (Allegro) as the story teller of "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" by Hans Christian Andersen. Bronfman has also recorded both of the concertos with the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.


The concerto is used in two different ballets. Kenneth MacMillan's Concerto premiered in on 30 November 1966 at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, then became a Royal Ballet repertoire.[7] Alexei Ratmansky created Concerto DSCH for the New York City Ballet, and premiered in 2008.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Moshevich 2004, pp. 153–5.
  2. ^ "Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No.2 in F". classicfm.com. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  3. ^ Bostan 2014, p. 33.
  4. ^ "Fascinating Insights into SHOSTAKOVICH's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, op. 102". Redlands Symphony. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  5. ^ Radio, Global. "Classic FM Hall of Fame". halloffame.classicfm.com. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  6. ^ Dmitri Shostakovich and Rodion Shchedrin, Shostakovich: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 / Shchedrin: Piano Concerto No. 5. (Denis Matsuev and Valery Gergiev, Mariinski) 4-6
  7. ^ "Concerto". Royal Opera House Collections Online.
  8. ^ "Concerto DSCH". New York City Ballet. Retrieved 23 May 2020.


  • Bostan, Maria Cristina (2014). "Concerto in F Major, Op. 102 for Piano and Orchestra by Dmitri Sostakovici". Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov, Series VIII: Performing Arts. 7 (2): 33–42.
  • Moshevich, Sofia (2004). Dmitri Shostakovich , Pianist. Montreal: MQUP. ISBN 978-0-7735-7125-9.