The cellist Mstislav Rostropovitch said of Rodion Shchedrin that he was the “king of the modern orchestra” as well as one whose music displayed “maximum expressivity of sound.” Shchedrin, a major figure in modern Russian music, whose body of work is as vast as it is diverse, will be celebrating his 90th birthday in 2022. For this occasion, the Verbier Festival exceptionally honours Mr Shchedrin by performing three of his symphonic works, one of which will be a world premiere. The second of the three concertos for piano and orchestra by Béla Bartók, which was written during the period of 1930-31, is the piece Shchedrin has played most often. The significant difficulty and complexity of this work highlights the composer’s technical prowess on the piano. Even though the first and last movements are dominated by forceful percussive elements, the grandiose Adagio-Presto-Adagio of the second movement explores, in a magical and poetic way, the partnership between the piano and the timpani. This piece is one of the most outstanding examples of Bartok’s ‘night music’. Shostakovich finished his Symphony No. 1 (1925) at the age of nineteen. At this time, the composer was still a student at the conservatory in Leningrad, and made a living playing the piano at a movie theatre. This orchestral work, made up of four movements, is fresh and mischievous, and confidently affirms its ‘musical identity’: playful humour rubs shoulders with the grotesque, sarcastic humour, and tragic lyricism, especially in the grandiose final lento that resembles the works of Mahler.