Sunday, August 28, 2016
The music of Dmitry Shostakovich is very much a reflection of the times during which he lived in the Soviet Union. Now we have a new recording that allows us to listen to his last three works. Shostakovich: Symphony No. 15 in A major, Op. 141, performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Eduard Serov conducting. Suite on verses by Michelangelo Buonarroti, for bass & orchestra, Op. 145a, performed by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, Frantisek Vajnar conducting.k Novorosiisk Chimes, Op. 111b, performed by the Radio-TV USSR Symphony, Arvid Jansons conducting. Ever the humorist, Shostakovich delighted in placing references to his works and of other composers in his final, Fifteenth Symphony: in addition to the cryptic references to his own music, it includes an outburst of Rossini’s ‘William Tell’ Overture in the first movement; allusions to Mikhail Glinka and Gustav Mahler; and the use of Richard Wagner’s ‘Fate’ leitmotif from the Ring Cycle. There is little humour however in the orchestral version of the ‘Michelangelo Suite’: a cycle profoundly personal and deeply felt. ‘Novorossiisk Chimes’ (also known as The Flame of Eternal Glory or The Fire of Eternal Glory), Op. 111b, was written in 1960 for the war memorial in the city of Novorossiisk. The piece consists, mainly, of material Shostakovich had originally written in 1943 as an entry in a contest to compose a new national anthem for the USSR. Here is a recording of the symphony number 15 by Shostakovich:
At 0935 yesterday the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic were informed that their Proms soloist Truls Mork was sick. At 1529 his replacement Alexey Stadler flew into Heathrow, little-known and 25 years old. At 1640 he was rehearsing on stage. At 1930 he made his Proms debut. No announcement was made to the audience. So how did he do? Ariane Todes was there: …This was an intelligent performance of Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto, with long lines and beautiful phrasing. If it was under-rehearsed, there was little evidence … Stadler holds his cello quite low, reminiscent of Rostropovich, but as yet he lacks the weight of sound and depth of vibrato of that master. There might have been a little more ugliness and anger in the characters of Shostakovich’s acerbic concerto, but no doubt that will come with age. Indeed, the Bach (the Sarabande from the Suite no.2) suited him better, beautifully conceived, simple and unmannered, but expressive and meaningful. It certainly made me want to hear more from him, and I’m sure we will. Read the full review here. photo: Chris Christodoulou/Lebrecht
View over Paris, at dusk, from the Maine-Montparnasse tower ‘For I assure you, without travel, at least for people from the arts and sciences, one is a miserable creature!’ stated Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart . For generations, composers and choreographers have been inspired by exotic settings around the world to create their art. Use our destination guide to plan your holiday to the places that inspired the great stories, characters, music and dance this Season. And if you can’t get away for a physical holiday then escape to a magical destination by watching a performance at the Royal Opera House. Rhineland, Germany Middle Rhine River, Germany Vincenzo Bellini ’s Norma is set amongst the Druid temples and sacred groves of Roman-occupied Gaul . Your local travel agent may look at you strangely if you try to book a trip to Gaul, considering it hasn’t existed since the fifth century, however you can travel to Germany west of the Rhine river to explore remnants of Gallic and Roman civilisations. Fly into Frankfurt and use Bingen am Rhein, originally a Gallic settlement, as a gateway to Rhineland-Palatinate region. Hike the Soonwaldsteig Trail and picture the Druids’ mysterious rituals in forest groves, as you search for Celtic and Roman ruins. Visit the Hillfort of Otzenhausen , a key Celtic fort in the 1st and 2nd centuries BC and the Belgnium Archaeology Park with its collection of Celtic and Roman artefacts. Continue to Germay’s oldest city Trier , where you will see vestiges of Roman conquest including a Roman city gate, amphitheatre, baths and a Roman bridge still used by traffic. Celebrate the end of your tour with local wine from the Moselle region. Norma runs 12 September–8 October 2016. Tickets are still available. It is a co-production with Opéra National de Paris. Seville, Spain View of the Cathedral of Seville and the Archivo de Indias With its historic architecture, cobbled streets, sunny squares and orange trees, Seville has captured the imagination of many composers. Once the European gateway to the Americas, Seville led the way in the cultural achievements of the Spanish Golden Age, gaining fame in 16th and 17th-century literature. Seville's colourful and romantic reputation makes it the setting for over 100 operas including Carmen , Don Giovanni , Fidelio and, of course, The Barber of Seville . Start your tour of the ‘opera city’ at St Thomas Street, the supposed location of Figaro’s house, amidst some of Seville’s most impressive landmarks: the Moorish palace of Alcázar, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and the 16th-century Archivo de Indias. Check out the Royal Tobacco Factory (now a part of the University of Seville), the setting for Act I of Carmen and an exemplar of 18th-century architecture. Make your way through the narrow streets of the Santa Cruz neighbourhood where many of Figaro’s adventures took place. At the corner of Argote de Molina and Segovia Streets you can picture Rosina’s Balcony and sing a few lines of ‘Ecco, ridente in cielo’ . Don’t forget to stop off for some of Seville’s famous tapas and flamenco, then complete your tour with a visit to the magnificent Plaza de toros de la Maestranza . Immortalised in Carmen, it is arguably the most impressive bullfighting ring in Spain and nearby stands a monument to Carmen herself. Il barbiere di Siviglia runs 13 September–11 October 2016. Tickets are still available. Suffolk, England Cottage in Suffolk, near Flatford ‘There exists in my imagination a life in the country of eternally late spring, a leafy pastorale of perpetual sunshine and the humming of bees – the suspended stillness of a Constable landscape of my beloved Suffolk…,' wrote choreographer Frederick Ashton . Don’t be fooled by the Gallic title: La Fille mal gardée is actually one of Ashton’s most quintessentially English ballets . Search for the Suffolk of Ashton’s imagination in ‘Constable Country ’, along the River Stour and Dedham Vale. To truly soak up the serenity of the countryside, explore it on foot or on bicycle following the Painter’s Trail . Experience the fruits of Suffolk’s agricultural heritage with a ‘foodie tour’ of the historical towns and villages of Bury St Edmunds, Lavenham and Sudbury, or time your visit to coincide with one of the local food festivals. See Suffolk’s pastoral side by visiting the working farms around Ipswich or the quintessential Suffolk village of Somerleyton with its thatched cottages around a village green set between grazing sheep on verdant slopes. Fancy continuing your journey further afield? Make your way to Colne in Lancashire, the home of clog dancing, to discover the origins of this English folk dance which features in La Fille mal gardée . La Fille mal gardée runs from 27 September–22 October 2016. Tickets are still available. Saint Petersburg, Russia Saint Petersburg, Russia. Palace Embankment, house 38 (Winter Palace) © A.Savin, Wikimedia Commons Travel to the land of vodka, babushkas and the Bolshoi Ballet to track down the settings of Anastasia and The Nose . Make a beeline for Saint Petersburg , Russia’s second largest city, the former Imperial capital and birthplace of Dimitry Shostakovich among many others. Tour the significant Romanov palaces. Visit Peterhof Palace (Princess Anastasia's birthplace) and Alexander Palace , the family's favoured residence and where the Imperial family were held under house arrest in 1917. A highlight of St Petersburg is the Winter Palace , a symbol of the Russian Tsars, where the Romanovs spent their winters and hosted lavish balls before it was captured by the Bolsheviks. Tombstones in the Peter and Paul Cathedral mark the final resting place of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Is Anastasia one of the three daughters whose remains rest here? Find Shostakovich's birthplace on Podolskaya Street and perhaps catch an opera performance at the Mikhaylovsky Theatre where The Nose had its premiere in 1929. Take a trip down Sadovaya Street where Major Kovalyov lived the short story by Gogol that inspired the opera. Trace the Major’s pursuit of his nose down to the site of Saint Isaac's Bridge on the Neva River, over to Kazan Cathedral , and onto Nevsky Prospect – the main street of St Petersburg – where you might lose your nose in the crowds but can catch up on your shopping. Anastasia runs from 26 October–12 November 2016. Tickets are still available. The Nose runs from 20 October–9 November 2016. Tickets are still available. Bavaria, Germany and Venice, Italy Gondolas and palazzos on the Grand Canal in Venice Immerse yourself in local tipples and cuisine when touring the settings of Les Contes d'Hoffmann . Your first stop should be Nuremberg in Bavaria, for the prologue of your tour and Hoffmann's tales. Head for the Old Town to get a feel for the city in Hoffmann’s day. Search for an atmospheric tavern and settle in for a glass or two of dark local beer, a plate of bratwurst sausages and get swept up in the romantic atmosphere. While in Germany, skip ahead to Act III with a visit to Munich and put on some Lederhosen to join the party in its one of its boisterous beer halls while searching for a singer called Antonia to fall in love with. Spend a few days in magical Venice , 'the floating city', wandering the atmospheric canals and piazzas. Take a gondola ride down the Grand Canal and look for Giulietta's palazzo as you float along being serenaded by your gondolier. Finish off with a lavish Venetian feast in a canal-side restaurant. Les Contes d'Hoffmann runs 7 November–3 December 2016. Tickets are still available. Northern France and Louisiana, USA Road leading through desert in Texas Ah, Paris. The ‘city of love’ has inspired many operas and is, of course, a worthy addition to any travel itinerary but let’s move along to some of the other settings of Manon Lescaut . Head to Amiens , a transportation hub in Manon’s day. Pull up a chair outside a café in Place Gambetta to imagine Manon's carriage pulling up as the chorus sings ‘Giunge il cocchio d'Arras!’ Make your way to the northern coast of France and explore the harbour of Le Havre , where Manon was imprisoned before being deported to Louisiana. See if you can find a ship to take you across the Atlantic Ocean as Manon did; otherwise fly to New Orleans where you should spend some time hanging out in jazz bars and eating Creole food before searching the outskirts of the city for the desert where Manon meets her fate. Unfortunately you won't find any real deserts in this area of rich alluvial land of the Mississippi delta but you can find windswept grasslands in the Cajun Prairie in southwest Louisiana. To experience some proper ‘feel-thirsty-just-by-looking-at-it’ desert, it’s best to road trip to nearby Texas and Chihuahua in neighbouring Mexico. Manon Lescaut runs from 22 November–12 December 2016. Tickets are still available. This is a co-production with Shanghai Grand Theatre. Have you been inspired to travel by any operas or ballets? Tell us about it in the comments.
We have been sent a list of the 100 most searched classical pianists on Wikipedia, the global reference site. Since the site lists every musician who ever touched a keyboard as a pianist, it’s not suprising that Mozart comes first with an average 5,631 searches a day, Beethoven second with 4,668 and Chopin third with about half as many. The big eye-opener is who comes fourth. It’s John Cale, one of the founders of Velvet Underground and about as classical as Johnny Rotten. 5 Gershwin 6 Liszt 7 Stravinsky 8 Ludovico Einaudi, the icy Italian minimalist 9 Herbie Hancock 10 Leonard Bernstein, averaging 1,077 searches a day 11 Rachmaninov 12 Shostakovich. No one else tops 1,000 searches a day. The findings, collated over viewings in the past two weeks, suggest that Wikipedia needs to tighten up its search criteria to define what is classical and what is a pianist. Among other personalities listed are Samantha Bentley, an English porn star (421 views) and Mark Rutte, Dutch prime minister (338). It may be safely assumed that those searching their names on Wikipedia are not planning to book them for a Liszt concerto. From the above data, we have compiled a mini list of professional concert pianists still alive and playing. Click here for thrills and spills.
Robert Page, Grammy-winning Director of Choruses for the Cleveland Orchestra from 1971 to 1989 and assistant conductor of the orchestra from 1979 to 1989, has died at the age of 89. After 18 busy years in Cleveland, where he also conducted the opera company, he moved on to rebuild the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh from 1979-2005, making it one of the country’s finest. he was co-founder of Chorus America in 1977 and its president from 1990-1993. Among many triumphs, he conducted the US premiere of Shostakovich’s 13th symphony and made choral settings of Candide arias for Leonard Bernstein. Fine obituary here.
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.
Great composers of classical music