Thursday, October 27, 2016
From the Lebrecht Album of the Week: For a troubled London teenager in the 1960s, there were three available sources of relief. One was illegal, one was immoral, and the third was available every other week at the Royal Festival Hall. I took myself to hear the Tchaikovsky Pathétique more often than I remember, sitting in the backless choir seats, watching the wealthier part of the audience indulge in plush catharsis. Over time, the relief wore thin. Tchaikovsky gave way to Mahler, and the Pathétique became a rare item, out of fashion, off the concert menu….. Read on here.
Chochieva/Gavrylyuk/Geniušas/Ghindin/Lugansky/Tomellini (Piano Classics, six CDs)Though not explicitly intended as such, Piano Classics’ comprehensive Rachmaninov set is a brilliant showcase of what the label has done so successfully over the past five years – identifying and recording some of brightest talents among today’s exceptional generation of young pianists. With six different musicians involved on these discs there are unevennesses, but none of the playing is less than very good, and some is breathtaking.Most of the recordings were made during the past five years. Some have been released by Piano Classics as single discs, while some, such as Elisa Tomellini’s busy round-up of Rachmaninov’s early piano pieces, are new. There are exceptions: Alexander Ghindin’s collection of the early Morceaux de Fantaisie and Rachmaninov’s assorted transcriptions dates back to the mid 1990s, while Nikolai Lugansky’s performances of the Second Piano Sonata (in the revised 1931 version) and the Corelli Variations, come from a Channel Classics disc made before Lugansky won the silver medal at the 1994 Tchaikovsky competition. While it’s odd that none of the label’s regular stable of pianists have made recent recordings of the sonata and the variations, which are two of Rachmaninov’s greatest works, the young Lugansky’s torrential playing doesn’t seem out of place among the precocious brilliance here. Continue reading...
Barbican, London The BBCSO’s strings danced and soared as Bychkov and soloist Kirill Gernstein delivered supremely poised accounts of works by Tchaikovsky and TaneyevIn the penultimate offering of his “Beloved Friend” Tchaikovsky project, Semyon Bychkov steered the BBC Symphony Orchestra between two extremes of late-Romantic symphonic writing. On the one hand, the challenge of variety when half of the orchestra is missing; on the other, the threat of colouristic saturation.Bychkov’s supremely poised account of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings made a compelling argument for windless self-sufficiency. With high-intensity tone and superb ensemble work throughout, the BBCSO’s strings danced and soared, relishing the suite’s bel canto lyricism and its rhythmic complexities. Continue reading...
Semyon Bychkov's Tchaikovsky Project "Beloved Friend" continues this week at the Barbican Centre, London. It's an ambitious series connected to a series of recordings with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, with concerts taking place oin London with the BBC SO and in New York with the New York Philharmonic, next year. The concerts (at least in London) were augmented with a play by Ronald Harwood on the relationship between Tchaikovsky and Madame von Meck, the "beloved friends" in question. Major publicity, too : flyers were distributed at the Royal Albert Hall during the Proms, almost guaranteed to get attention. So, why are so many tickets still unsold, even for Monday's concert at the Barbican ? Tchaikovsky should sell out, particularly with upmarket stars like Bychkov and Kirill Gerstein, and interesting programmes which lesser known but important choices like the original 1879 version of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto no 2. Although the London music scene is unusually quiet at the moment there doesn't seem to have been much public reaction. Even Friday's concert with the Symphony Pathetique and Rachmaninov The Bells hasn't sold out. It doesn't make much sense, since the first concert, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 was pretty good. Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony op 58 is a huge beast, nearly an hour long, and full of dynamic full of extremes. Inspired by Byron's poem Manfred it tells of a hero confronting supernatural demonic forces in a cosmic struggle that takes place in the Alps. In Byron's time, the Alps symbolized danger, the vastness of nature dwarfing humankind. Schumann's Manfred is Romantic in the true, wild Germanic sense. Tchaikovsky, however. was Russian and a man of the theatre, so Bychkov's approach emphasized the expansiveness that gives the piece context. Bychkov's a great opera conductor, he knows how music can "speak"on its own terms. Bychov created the panoramic backdrop to the drama vividly : generous, sweeping lines suggesting limitless horizons. As the tempo quickened, the orchestra soared upward, : searching lines contrasting well with the sudden crashing climax with which the first movement ends. Perhaps this is the moment when Manfred meets his mysterious half sister Astarte. What is the nature of their relationship (bearing in mind Byron's unnatural relationship with his own half sister) ? And, why the mountains ? The second movement, marked vivace con spirito describes a mountain spirit, one of the elementals who haunt Alpine lore. They are fairies, but also signify danger, their elusiveness defying human control. Thus the high violin melody that flies above, and away, from the main orchestral foundation. . The third movement describes the mountain folk, who carve out marginal lives in harsh conditions, yet seem happy as they dance, presumably in pure, open air festivals. They're tough folk and down to earth, while Manfred, though a hero, is rather more quixotic. Like Byron himself, maybe, a towering figure but one with dark complexes. Tolling bells suggest danger. The music descends into a stranger mood, sounds crashing against each other as if the earth itself was imploding,"fire" pouring forth from the rapid rivulets of sound. Manfred fights off the evil spirits who tempt him, but chooses to die on his own terms. What might Tchaikovsky have made of this ? The finale was grand, the pace brisk, craggy peaks and descents sharply defined, dizzying figures suggesting turbulence. Not mountain breezes, but perhaps something more demonic. The organ underlined the cosmological nature of Manfred's predicament. Bychkov recently conducted a magnificent Strauss Alpine Symphony. Read my review here - Mordwand ! Bychkov's Manfred Symphony, like his Alpine Symphony were definitely not "tourist trail". Although the drama dissipates at the end of the symphony, textures are more refined, more esoteric, one feels that perhaps Manfred is entering a new frontier, beyond the ken of mankind. hence details, like the horn calling the hero on, and the dizzying upwards rush towards a serene conclusion that might suggest spiritual sublimation. This programme began with Kirill Gerstein and the Piano Concerto no 2, in the much longer original version, like Manfred, monumental in its traverse. Maybe audiences take Tchaikovsky - and Bychkov and the BBC SO - for granted and don't realize how much goes into performance at this level of excellence. things like this don't just "happen". So get to Monday's concert if you can, which features "Three faces of Tchaikovsky: the graceful, elegant Serenade with its stunning melodies; the single finished movement of the unfinished Third Piano Concerto, the composer’s last work; and the Dante-inspired tone-poem Francesca de Rimini with its portrayal of a forbidden love" to quote the Barbican ad, and Taneyev's Overture to Oresteia. Perhaps the most intriguing of all three concerts in Bychkov's Beloved Friends Tchaikovsky Project.
Viviana Durante and Laura Morera in rehearsal for Anastasia, The Royal Ballet © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Tristram Kenton Two worlds Anna Anderson sits in a Berlin mental institution, watching video footage of the Romanov family . She believes herself to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia , youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II , having survived the massacre that killed her family in 1918 . Some people believe her, but many do not, and she is haunted by memories of a past that may not be hers. In Acts I and II of Kenneth MacMillan ’s Anastasia , we watch the young Anastasia grow up, amid the final days of the Russian Empire – but in Act III, we encounter the conflicted Anna Anderson as she battles with her possibly imagined Imperial past. An expanded look through history MacMillan originally created Act III of Anastasia as a one-act ballet for Deutsche Oper Ballet in 1967, and expanded it into a three-act work for The Royal Ballet in 1971, early in his tenure as the Company’s Director. Lengthening the work allowed MacMillan the opportunity to look at the history lying behind Anna Anderson’s claim, as well as creating a work that shows the skills of the entire company. The role of Anastasia/Anna Anderson was created on MacMillan’s muse Lynn Seymour , who had earlier created lead roles for MacMillan in The Invitation and Romeo and Juliet . A new production, designed by Bob Crowley , was created in 1996, and it returns in 2016 for its second revival. Belief and memory The story of Anna Anderson gripped the public in the 1960s and 70s, with many people believing – or wanting to believe – her extraordinary claim. DNA evidence has since proved that she cannot have been the Grand Duchess. But MacMillan’s ambiguous depiction of her remains a fascinating portrayal of a tortured figure and a startling exploration of memory and identity. A volatile musical universe There is as much contrast in the music for Anastasia as there is in the choreography: Tchaikovsky ’s First and Third Symphonies for Acts I and II; Martinů ’s Sixth for Act III. Tchaikovsky’s First is a wistful, youthful work that is the ideal setting for Anastasia’s reminiscences. His Third, filled with dance forms, creates the grandeur of a party at the Imperial palace that comes to a tumultuous end as revolutionaries invade. Martinů’s’s Sixth Symphony, titled Fantaisies symphoniques, is a dark array of thoughts and memories, hopes and fears, as volatile and uncertain as the ballet’s protagonist. A demanding lead role Lynn Seymour, the first ballerina to dance Anastasia/Anna Anderson, was renowned for the expressivity of her performances. In this ballet MacMillan created a role that spans the gamut of ballet, demanding facility in more neoclassical styles early on, and a show-stealing dramatic turn in the final act. Former Royal Ballet Principal Viviana Durante danced the role in 1996, and coaches it this year in her first return to the Company since 2000. Anastasia runs 26 October–12 November 2016. Tickets are still available. The production will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world on 2 November 2016. Find your nearest cinema. The production is given with generous philanthropic support from Hans and Julia Rausing, Sarah and Lloyd Dorfman, Richard and Delia Baker, The Tsukanov Family Foundation, Simon and Virginia Robertson and The Fonteyn Circle .
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (May 7, 1840 - November 6, 1893) was a Russian composer of the Romantic era. His wide ranging output includes symphonies, operas, ballets, instrumental and chamber music and songs. He wrote some of the most popular concert and theatrical music in the classical repertoire, including the ballets Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, the 1812 Overture, his First Piano Concerto, his last three numbered symphonies, and the opera Eugene Onegin. Born into a middle-class family, Tchaikovsky was educated for a career as a civil servant, despite his obvious musical precocity. He pursued a musical career against the wishes of his family, entering the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in 1862 and graduating in 1865. This formal, Western-oriented training set him apart from the contemporary nationalistic movement embodied by the influential group of young Russian composers known as The Five, with whom Tchaikovsky's professional relationship was mixed.
Great composers of classical music