I’m a regular contributor to the #ClassicsaDay Twitter feed. For January 2018, I decided to mark the first month of the new year with firsts. Each post features the first published work of a different composer.
Emphasis on the word “published,” In some cases, the Opus 1 is the first mature work of the composer. Sometimes the work was written mid-career. A few are spurious, and a few were written quite late and simply assigned the Opus 1 designation.
Each work seems to have a story that’s a little long for the typical tweet. So here they are. This is week two of the #ClassicsaDay #Opus1.
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) – Scherzo for Orchestra, Op. 1
Shostakovich was a precocious musical talent and was taking advanced piano instruction at age nine. He wrote this work when he was thirteen years old. Shostakovich was enrolled at the Petrograd Conservatory at the time, and his progress was closely monitored by the director, Alexander Glazunov.
Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782)- Harpsichord Concerto Op. 1 No. 1
The Opus 1 of J.C. Bach were hardly his first compositions. These keyboard concertos were published by Peter Welcker of London in 1763. Bach had become the music master to Queen Charlotte, and his music was much in demand. The concertos were written to either be performed on a harpsichord, or the new pianoforte that was just coming into fashion.
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) – Piano Quartet No.1, Op. 1
Mendelssohn’s first published work was a piano quartet. It was one of three, and he completed it in 1822. Mendelssohn was thirteen, but already an experienced composer. By 1822 he had written several chamber works, as well as eight of his twelve string symphonies.
Samuel Barber (1910-1981) – Serenade for Strings, Op. 1
The first published work of Samuel Barber was a piece he completed when he was eighteen. The original version was for string quartet. In 1944, the work was republished with revisions, and also in a version for string orchestra. This is the version that’s most frequently performed today.
Edward Elgar (1854-1934) – Romance for violin and piano, Opus 1
As a professional composer, Elgar was something of a late bloomer. He wrote his first published work in 1878. It was published It was published in 1885 when Elgar was thirty-one. The work is dedicated to Oswin Grainger, an amateur violinist. Goswin and Elgar played in the same community orchestra.