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Dmitri Shostakovich

Thursday, September 29, 2016


The Boston Musical Intelligencer

September 27

BSO Opens with Lang Lang and Russians

The Boston Musical IntelligencerA glass of wine and assorted small-bite-eats prepped the capacity crowd Saturday for the opening concert of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 136th season (its 117th in Symphony Hall, and their third under Music Director Andris Nelsons. The all-Russian extravaganza was chock full of crowd pleasers: Dmitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, Op. 96, Serge Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26 (featuring superstar soloist Lang Lang), and Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in the orchestration by Maurice Ravel. One naturally expected sonic spectaculars, but I had not anticipated the various ways that the brass section of the orchestra would create ravishing and intoxicating sounds. Dmitri Shostakovich completed his Festive Overture in A Major in 1954, the year after Stalin’s death, and in the wake of his cathartic Tenth Symphony. It is one of the first unalloyed, lighthearted works in Shostakovich’s output since 1936 when his opera, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, ran him afoul of Stalin’s censors. The overture’s light, high-spirited tone, free of the sardonic irony of the wartime works, has made it a staple of Pops orchestras around the world. Nelsons and the BSO gave the overture an opulent reading. The opening segment featured a brass choir that was stunningly attuned to each other, matching breath, vibrato, and tone to generate a heady mix of overtones and partials, particularly from the lush middle and lower brass instruments. There were other pleasures to be sure, like the spiky insouciance with which the three clarinets presented a troika-like theme, the flavorful color and bloom of the strings’ pizzicato playing. and the subtle slow-down to a reprise, ending the overture with the same glorious brass that began it. Serge Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 is the most popular and widely performed of his five creations in this form. There are moments of gentle lyricism in the work, but it’s most beloved for the spiky rhythms and orchestra writing, and the kind of punchy solo writing that reminded the world that the pianoforte is a percussion instrument at heart. It’s an ideal vehicle for the flamboyant showman and one-man industry that is the pianist Lang Lang, last heard in a solo recital last October (reviewed here ). The first movement had plenty of Lang’s characteristic high-velocity, impeccably clean playing, accompanied by dramatic hand flares and the fingers of one hand darting between those of the other, though without the half-body twists and contortions of the solo recital. The orchestra provided beautifully shaped support. In the louder passages, they drowned out the pianist (though at least one video that I have seen, balances sounded better, so this may have reflected my vantage point in the first balcony left). A passage with low growling trombones near the end of the movement offered another chance to hear the BSO brass in its full glory. In the theme-and-variations slow movement, Lang showed more interpretive range, here with a breezy blueness, there with an evocation of a twisted children’s faerie tale, even a nocturne which seemed to owe a debt to Rachmaninov. The final movement offered more stunning instrumental interludes, but a blazing Lang-led fusillade of octaves and scales brought the concerto to a thrilling conclusion and brought the audience to its feet. After several ovations, Lang returned to the keyboard for an encore. He chose to transition from the sardonic frenetics of the Prokofiev to the melancholic sentimentality of Mexican composer Manuel Ponce’s Intermezzo No.1 (1909). It struck me as strange that he chose this piece in an all-Russian program, and even stranger that this was also the first encore at his solo recital last October. I’m not sure if the choice reflects a deep abiding obsession with Ponce’s piano writing, or a lack of creativity and range in encore choices. Modest Mussorgsky created the knuckle-busting piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition in 1874, as a tribute to his friend, the artist Victor Hartmann, who died the year before at age 39. A posthumous exhibition of Hartmann’s work inspired Mussorgsky to transmogrify/translate/interpret his friend’s work from paint to piano. The surviving Hartmann images that inspired this work can be seen here . The fiendish difficulties of the piano piece led it to languish in obscurity until Serge Koussevitzky commissioned an orchestration from the French master, Maurice Ravel, whose orchestration adds a dizzying range of orchestral colors to the piano work; he plays with tempos, making some faster and some much slower than those of the original. It offers a chance for an orchestra to show off, and Nelsons and the Boston Symphony didn’t disappoint. The piece begins with a meandering Promenade, which becomes a recurring motif, summoning the image of an art lover strolling through a gallery looking at a sequence of paintings and tying the work together. Each of the other movements is a tone poem evoking one of Hartmann’s artworks from his posthumous exhibition. The opening Promenade is a high, exposed trumpet solo, dispatched with character and aplomb by principal trumpet Thomas Rolfe. The rest of the trumpets, trombones, and tuba joined in, and rendered the well-known tune with a gorgeously blended and tuned sound. Subsequent repeats of the Promenade showed off the glories of the BSO wind section (led in the first reprise by principal horn James Sommerville), a beautiful matching of sound and give-and-take between wind choir and lower strings, and a stunning blend of brass and winds in the final reprise. To create each individual painting, Nelsons and the BSO worked hard to render Ravel’s distinctive and varied orchestral colors with precision and specificity. They created vivid sonic depictions of each of the images in a way that would be very difficult to achieve on solo piano. Thus “The Old Castle” disclosed a tight, flavorful ensemble with alto saxophonist, two bassoons, and English horn alternating with dreamy hushed strings. “Cattle” depicted an ox-drawn wagon, with cellos and double basses lumbering with a rustic, slightly irregular rhythmic refrain backing up a soulful and exposed tuba solo by Mike Roylance. For the “Ballet of Chicks in their Shells,” the harps, oboes, flutes, and clarinets offered a chorus of amusingly hyperactive, cheeping chirps. The fiercely articulated unison string playing in “Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle” gave way to a high-wire act of muted high repeated notes from first trumpet Rolfe. In “Catacombs,” the lower brass played ravishing, overtone-laden chords with all kinds of dynamic shading, and “Among the dead in the language of the dead” stunned with hushed wind and string tremolos. “The Hut on Chicken’s Legs” (Baba Yaga’s Hut) possessed a Harry Potter-esque magical sweep to it, and the concluding “Great Gate of Kiev” ended grandly with an eardrum-splitting but controlled and balanced aural explosion that brought an appreciative crowd to its feet. Andris Nelsons conduct Lang Lang and the BSO (michael Blanchard photo) Over the last few years, I’ve been excited to hear the members of the Boston Symphony play with increasing commitment as an increasingly tight ensemble under Nelsons. Of the many memorable sonic glories in this opening gala, though, that intoxicating brass most intensely lingers. It gave this self-confessed overtone junkie a healthy fix. A shortened version of the opening program, with only the Shostakovich and Mussorgsky, will repeat at 8 p.m. in this week’s “Casual Fridays” offering. Nelsons will remain in town for the next two weeks, offering a concert version of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier featuring Renée Fleming as the Marschallin and Susan Graham as Octavian on September 29th and October 1st. and Jörg Widmann’s Trauermarsch (Funeral March) for piano and orchestra with Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem on the weekend starting Thursday, October 6th. James C.S. Liu is a physician by day and a baritone and music enthusiast by night. He lives with his wife and daughters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The post BSO Opens with Lang Lang and Russians appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .

Royal Opera House

September 27

Watch: Insights into Shostakovich's The Nose

A ROH Insight event exploring Dimitry Shostakovich ’s The Nose was live-streamed for free via the Royal Opera House YouTube channel on 27 September 2016. Russian composer Shostakovich began writing The Nose when he was only 20 years old. The piece is an adaptation of Nikolai Gogol 's short story and tells the story of a civil servant, Major Kovalyov, who loses his nose and launches a desperate hunt to get it back. For this live stream, Staff Director Amy Lane was joined by production director Barrie Kosky to offer insights into The Royal Opera's new production of the piece. Now one of Shostakovich's best known operas, The Nose was received poorly by its early audiences upon its stage premiere in 1930 and would not be performed again in the USSR until 1974. Kosky and Lane were also joined by Professor of Russian Literature Andrew Kahn who discussed the Soviet Union's suppression of satirical works. The Insight event also featured a musical segment with members of the cast. For notifications about future YouTube live streams, subscribe to the Royal Opera House channel: // function onYtEvent(payload) { if (payload.eventType == 'subscribe') { // Add code to handle subscribe event. } else if (payload.eventType == 'unsubscribe') { // Add code to handle unsubscribe event. } if (window.console) { // for debugging only window.console.log('YT event: ', payload); } } // ]]> The Nose runs 20 October-9 November 2016. Tickets are still available .




Royal Opera House

September 27

Opera Essentials: Shostakovich’s The Nose

Dimitry Shostakovich, 1950. Deutsche Fotothek The Story Begins… The pompous Collegiate Assessor Kovalov wakes up one morning to find that his nose has vanished from his face. An increasingly nightmarish day follows, with Kovalov undergoing a host of bizarre encounters and experiences as he chases his Nose all over St Petersburg. Will he ever get it back? A Masterful Russian Satire The Nose is based on the short story Nos (The Nose) by the Russian writer Nikolay Gogol . Gogol’s large and varied output included historical fiction, plays (including The Government Inspector), folklike tales, chilling supernatural short stories and social critiques, such as the novel Dead Souls . His fascinations with Ukrainian puppet theatre , with bizarre dream worlds and with absurdity all come to the fore in Nos. Dimitry Shostakovich greatly admired Gogol’s story, and wrote his own libretto, paying special attention to the nuances in Gogol’s text. Struggling Against Authority Shostakovich wrote The Nose at the prodigiously young age of 21. He hoped to breathe new life into Soviet opera, which seemed to him antiquated compared to recent developments in theatre and film. In constructing this first opera he was influenced by experimental theatre (particularly the work of avant-garde director Vsevolod Meyerhold ). Unfortunately the opera was considered too irreverent by Stalin ’s ‘proletarian critics’, who gave it harsh reviews on its premiere in January 1930. It was not staged again in Russia until 1974, and in recent decades the opera has begun to gain a hold in the international repertory. Theatrical Absurdity Shostakovich’s witty score uses a montage of styles, including atonality, popular dance, circus music and folksong, and deftly parodies traditional operatic numbers, including the religious chorus (in Act I) and the romantic aria (in Act III). Striking instrumental effects include the peculiar opening as the barber shaves Kovalov, an orchestral interlude scored for percussion, and Kovalov’s manservant Ivan’s folksong in Act II, accompanied by balalaika . A Surreal Fairytale Barrie Kosky ’s production celebrates the opera’s surreal, black-comic dreamlike world. Look out in particular for the Nose’s transformations, from a flabby body part found in a wodge of dough to a giant tap-dancing nose; for the many different settings that can emerge from a table; and for the crazy vodka party at which the Nose is finally captured – all of that whirling around one man: the poor de-nosed Collegiate Assessor Kovalov. The Nose runs 20 October–9 November 2016. Tickets are still available . The production is a co-production with Komische Oper Berlin and Opera Australia , and is staged with generous philanthropic support from Hamish and Sophie Forsyth, The Tsukanov Family Foundation and The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund .

The Well-Tempered Ear

September 27

Classical music: UW-Madison’s third annual Brass Fest takes place this Friday and Saturday, and spotlights the debut of the Stockholm Chamber Brass

By Jacob Stockinger Attention all BRASS FANS! A fanfare is in order. The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music is hosting its third annual Brass Festival this coming Friday and Saturday – complete with special logo T-shirts to benefit the event. The schedule includes master classes (on the trumpet, trombone, tuba and horn) and performances. The major concerts require tickets – adult admission is $20 for the Friday night concert and $15 for the Saturday night concert with $5 admission for students and children for both concerts. The star of the festival is the Stockholm Chamber Brass (below), which is on its first tour of the U.S. The UW-Madison ’s Wisconsin Brass Quintet (below) will also feature prominently. Wisconsin Brass Quintet Concerts are on Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall. There will be a reception after the Saturday night concert. One of the major works to be performed is Malcolm Arnold ’s Brass Quintet. It will be heard at the Friday night concert. (You can hear the Arnold quintet in the YouTube video at the bottom.) Players from several area high schools will also be featured in the festival and performances. For more information, including background on the Stockholm Chamber Brass and a link to the complete programs, which includes music by Gabrieli, Mahler, Shostakovich and Scandinavian composers, visit: http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/brass-fest-3/ Tagged: Arts , Baroque , brass , Chamber music , Classical music , Dmitri Shostakovich , Gabrieli , Horn , logo , Madison , Mahler , Malcolm Arnold , Music , Scandinavia , Stockholm Chamber Brass , T-shirt , Trombone , Trumpet , Tuba , United States , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , Wisconsin , Wisconsin Brass Quintet , YouTube



The Well-Tempered Ear

September 26

Classical music: This week offers FREE concerts by the Pro Arte String Quartet on Wednesday night and the Trio Unprepared for piano and percussion on Thursday night

By Jacob Stockinger Two FREE and appealing but very different concerts are on tap this week at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music: PRO ARTE QUARTET On Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the acclaimed Pro Arte Quartet (below in a photo by Rick Langer) will perform a program that features standard works as well as new music. The quartet will play the String Quartet in B-flat Major (1790), Op. 64, No. 3, by Franz Joseph Haydn ; and the String Quartet No, 10 (1809), Op. 74, called the “Harp” Quartet, by Ludwig van Beethoven. You can hear the first movement of Beethoven’s “Harp” Quartet, performed by the Alban Berg Quartet , in a YouTube video at the bottom. Less well is the contemporary work “Fantasies on the Name of Sacher” (2012) by French composer Philippe Hersant . Here are program notes from Pro Arte cellist Parry Karp (below): “The Haydn and Hersant are new pieces for the Pro Arte and it has been a great pleasure to learn them. “The Haydn was written at the time that Haydn’s job as the court composer of the court of Esterhazy had come to an end. It is one of the “Tost” Quartets, named for the Hungarian violinist Johann Tost. Haydn dedicated the quartets to him to thank him for his performances and helping him get a publisher for the quartets. “The next piece on the program is the “Fantasies for String Quartet” by the French composer Philippe Versant (b. 1948, below). Here are the composer’s notes on this piece: “This piece has been in the works for years. First performed in 2008, the first version for string trio included on six fantasies. I added two the following year, then an additional instrument (second violin). This version for string quartet was commissioned for the Cully Classique Festival, where it was premiered in 2012. Finally, for the Grand Prix Lycéen for Composers, I imagined a version for string orchestra, commissioned by Musique Nouvelle en Liberté (2013). “The initial challenge was to write a series of pieces that were as different as possible, from a basic material that was very narrow. That common material is a short motif of 6 notes, which correspond (in Germanic notation) to the letters of Sacher’s name (with a few twists): S (E-flat) A C H(B) E R(D). “This motif has already been used by a number of composers (Henri Dutilleux, Pierre Boulez and Benjamin Britten) in their homages to Paul Sacher , the great patron and conductor. “Joined together by the omnipresence of these six notes, the eight fantasies offer strong contrasts in character and style:the first has a high-pitched, rarefied atmosphere a la Shostakovich; the second has a taunting and obsessional tone; there is a dramatic, tense ambience in the fourth …. Two others showcase the voices of the soloists: viola (lyrical) in the third and the cello (stormy) in the seventh. “Some quotations pepper the discourse: In the third fantasy an altered version of a passage from Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130, and the sixth combines motifs borrowed from Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 , Igor Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms” and Dmitri Shostakovich. A falsely naive, short children’s song closes the set. “-P. H.” The last piece on the program, the String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 74, by Beethoven, was named the “Harp” Quartet by the first publisher of the work. It was so named because of the the unique use of pizzicato in the first movement of the piece. This string quartet is one of the great masterpieces of the quartet repertoire with a brilliant first movement, a profound slow movement which foreshadows Beethoven’s late period, a brilliant scherzo, and a classical style variation movement as the finale. TRIO UNPREPARED On Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Trio Unprepared will perform a FREE concert of improvised music. Here is the blurb from the UW-Madison School of Music’s website: Drawing from the vast resources of contemporary, jazz, classical and global music, the Unprepared Trio presents an evening of IMPROVISED music for piano and percussion. Ensemble members are Andre Gribou, piano, and Roger Braun and Anthony DiSanza on percussion. (DiSanza teaches at the UW-Madison and is a member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra .) Trio Unprepared has performed globally in extraordinarily diverse musical settings and worked together in various configurations for many years. This concert — and the subsequent tour of Wisconsin — brings the trio back together for the first time since performing in Switzerland in July 2015. A master class will follow this concert, from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Tagged: arpeggio , Arts , B-Flat Major , Beethoven , Benjamin Britten , Cello , Chamber music , children , Classical music , Classical period (music) , Dmitri Shostakovich , Esterhazy , France , French music , global , Gustav Mahler , harp , Henri Dutilleux , Hungary , Igor Stravinsky , improvisation , improvise , Jacob Stockinger , Jazz , Joseph Haydn , Ludwig van Beethoven , Madison , Madison Symphony Orchestra , master class , masterpiece , Music , New Music , Opus number , Orchestra , Paul Sacher , percussion , Philippe Hersant , Piano , Piano Trio , Pierre Boulez , pizzicato , Pro Arte Quartet , Psalms , Public university , publisher , sing , song , Switzerland , symphony , Tost , trio , United States , university , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , Viola , Violin , Wisconsin , workd music , YouTube

My Classical Notes

September 22

Valentina Lisitsa Plays Music from Films

Here is a new recording by pianist Valentina Lisitsa: Love Story: Piano Themes From Cinema’s Golden Age The tracks on this CD are as follows: Addinsell: Warsaw Concerto Invocation Bath: Cornish Rhapsody Beaver: Portrait of Isla Bennett, R R: Murder on the Orient Express: Overture Bridgewater: Legend of Lancelot Davis, C: Pride and Prejudice: theme Farnon: Seashore Grusin: On Golden Pond: New Hampshire Hornpipe Leslie-Smith: The Mansell Concerto Lucas, L: Stage Fright Rhapsody from Stage Fright Rota, N: The Legend of the Glass Mountain Shostakovich: The Unforgettable Year 1919 – suite Op. 89a: The Storming Of Red Hill (Assault On Beautiful Gorky) Williams, Charles: Jealous Lover (The Apartment) The Dream of Olwen All are performed by Valentina Lisitsa (piano), with the BBC Concert Orchestra, Christopher Warren-Green, and Gavin Sutherland conducting. Valentina Lisitsa explores the glorious music of cinema’s unparalleled golden era. Valentina looks back to the cinematic glory days of the big screen, performing the finest piano concerto music composed especially for film. A genre originally influenced by Rachmaninov’s popular piano concertos, these pieces are arresting original scores for piano and orchestra composed for movies of the 1940s and 1950s including Dangerous Moonlight, Stagefright, and The Apartment. The album also brings us up-to-date with captivating music from Murder on the Orient Express, On Golden Pond and Pride & Prejudice. This is a feast of original works by well-known composers such as Nino Rota, Richard Addinsell, Carl Davies, Richard Rodney-Bennett and Dimitri Shostakovich, set alongside scores from Charles Williams, Hubert Bath, Robert Farnon and others. These pieces feature in films by legends such as Alfred Hitchcock, Leslie Arliss and Mark Rydell, accompanied by the great actors of the time such as Lauren Bacall, Katherine Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Albert Finney, Jack Lemmon, Ingrid Bergman and many more. Here is Valentina Lisitsa in music of Liszt:

Dmitri Shostakovich
(1906 – 1975)

Dmitri Shostakovich (25 September 1906 - 9 August 1975) was a Soviet Russian composer and one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century. Shostakovich achieved fame in the Soviet Union under the patronage of Leon Trotsky's chief of staff, but later had a complex and difficult relationship with the Stalinist bureaucracy. In 1936, the government, most probably under orders from Stalin, harshly criticized his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, causing him to withdraw the Fourth Symphony during its rehearsal stages. Shostakovich's music was officially denounced twice, in 1936 and 1948, and was periodically banned. After a period influenced by Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky, Shostakovich developed a hybrid style, as exemplified by Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (1934). This single work juxtaposed a wide variety of trends, including the neo-classical style (showing the influence of Stravinsky) and post-Romanticism (after Gustav Mahler). Shostakovich's orchestral works include 15 symphonies and six concerti. His symphonic work is typically complex and requires large scale orchestras. Music for chamber ensembles includes 15 string quartets, a piano quintet, two pieces for a string octet, and two piano trios. For the piano he composed two solo sonatas, an early set of preludes, and a later set of 24 preludes and fugues. Other works include two operas, and a substantial quantity of film music.



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