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.
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) – Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 1
Prokofiev’s first published work seems not to be liked by anyone. Premiered by the composer in 1910, it was coldly received by critics. Prokofiev’s style isn’t fully formed in the work. His influences — Tchaikovsky, Busoni, Rachmaninov — lie close to the surface, making the piece at times sound derivative. Even Prokofiev wasn’t entirely happy with the sonata. He dropped the second and third movements before publication, leaving the single somewhat formal first movement sonata-allegro.
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) – Trio Sonatas for two violins and basso continuo, Op. 1
Vivaldi’s first published works were hardly his earliest compositions. His Opus 1 Trio Sonatas were published in 1705 when he was 27. In the Baroque period, publication was often reserved for those works that might have broad appeal (and generate sales). The twelve trio sonatas of the Opus 1 set could be performed with two violins, flutes, oboes, or any combination thereof.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) – Der Erlkönig
Der Erlkönig is a poem by Gothe, set to music by Schubert in 1815. The poem tells the story of a man riding furiously through the night with his ailing son. The boy succumbs to the call of the Erlkönig (Elf King) that pursues them. The father reaches safety, but not before the boy dies. Schubert published this lied in 1815 as his Opus 1. He had already completed over 300 compositions. Though very demanding, the work is often performed and is considered one of Schubert’s best lieder.
Lowell Liebermann (1961 – ) – Piano sonata No. 1, Op. 1
Like Brahms, Lowell Liebermann is both a talented pianist and composer. And also like Brahms, his first published work was a piano sonata. Liebermann premiered his Piano Sonata No. 1 in a Carnegie Hall performance. He was sixteen at the time. Liebermann’s gone on to have a highly successful career. His flute concerto is considered a standard of the repertoire.
Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)- Rondeau in C minor, Op. 1
Chopin’s first published work was originally titled “Adieu à Varsovie” (“Farewell to Warsaw”). It was published when he was fifteen. Although it isn’t the first piece he composed, the rondeau is often seen as a lesser work. Schumann wrote that “there is plenty of spirit in it and few difficulties.”