By Mike Telin
“It’s more that the piece came my way rather than me actively looking for it,” cellist Henry Shapard said during a telephone conversation. “Back in the fall I sat down with my great teacher Richard Weiss and asked him what he would like me to play. I had just played Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations in the summer, so I expected that he would recommend something like the Dvořák. But he told me that before I did anything else, I really should work on the Kabalevsky.”
On Sunday, May 3rd at 8:00 pm in Severance Hall, Henry Shapard will perform Dmitry Kabalevsky’s Cello Concerto in g with the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra under the direction of Brett Mitchell. The program will also include Samuel Barber’s Medea’s Dance of Vengeance, and Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra.
Although Shapard had heard of Kabalevsky and was familiar with the composer’s violin concerto, which he said he found to be a little trite, he was curious to learn more about the cello concerto. “I read up on it and I listened to a recording that Daniel Shafran made back in the 1950s, and I thought there could be something here.
“When you’re 16 years old like I am, you don’t often get the chance to make your mark on a piece. With concertos like the Dvořák and Elgar there is a lot that you can get out of them technically, but people record and perform them all the time, and everybody has their favorite versions. But in this case the piece is really new for almost everybody.”
One thing that concerned Shapard about the work is that it’s often labeled as a ‘student’ concerto. “Kabalevsky wrote it for a very skilled conservatory student in Russia. That does give the concerto a little bit of a bad rap — if it wasn’t written for a professional, there must be something wrong with it.
‘But as I started to work on it I realized the fact that it is a student concerto doesn’t make it any easier. There are passages where Kabalevsky has written beautiful melodies, but in other sections it is totally up to the soloist to make an impression. So not only am I learning this difficult piece, I’m also figuring out how I want it to sound to people who have never heard it before.”
Read the rest of the preview at ClevelandClassical.com.