Saturday, November 3, 2018 at 7:30 PM
Northwest Hills United Methodist Church, 7050 Village Center Dr
Box Office opens at 6:30 pm; doors open at 7:00 pm
Advance Single Tickets and Discount Packages: $25.50 – $45
Door tickets: $30 (GA), $45 (Premium), $12 (Student Rush — must show ID)
Scherzo in C Minor, Op. 42, No. 2 | Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
Piano Concerto No. 13 in C Major, K. 415 | W. A. Mozart (1756-1791)
- Rondeau. Allegro
String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 110 (arranged for string orchestra) | Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975)
- Allegro molto
Contrapunctus No. 1 from The Art of Fugue | J. S. Bach (1685-1750)
Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70 | Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
- Allegro con spirito
- Adagio cantabile e con moto
- Allegretto moderato
- Allegro vivace
RUSSIAN STRING ORCHESTRA
(Formerly: Chamber Orchestra Kremlin)
Misha Rachlevsky, Music Director
Michelle Schumann, piano
Russian String Orchestra
Founded in 1991, the orchestra (formerly Chamber Orchestra Kremlin), comprised of some of Russia’s finest young string players, has carved a niche for itself under the creative baton of its founder and music director Misha Rachlevsky. Whether it is the highly-acclaimed CDs or its mesmerizing concerts, the Russian String Orchestra’s warmth and high energy create addictive performances that stay with listeners long after the last note has been played.
The signature quality of the orchestra is the depth and variety of its repertoire—over 1000 compositions from early baroque to works written on commission from the orchestra by composers from Russia, Europe and the USA. The orchestra prides itself in offering interesting and often unique programs, not only for its home audience, but on tour as well; about half of its nearly 2,000 concerts have taken place on tours in 25 countries in North and South America, Europe, and the Far East. The orchestra’s discography of over 30 CDs has received widespread international acclaim, including the Diapason d’Or award in France, Critics Choice in London’s Gramophone, and Critics Choice in The New York Times.
Student Ensemble Pre-Performance:
Come early to hear music performed by our Young Artists Academy String Trio. The trio will perform a variety of repertoire while you wait for the concert to begin.
Karly Shi, violin
Jasper Sewell, viola
Julian Casas, cello
By Misha Rachlevsky
Shostakovich – Chamber Symphony, Op. 110 bis
Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, Op. 110 bis, holds the honors of being one of the most frequently performed works in its original version, as String Quartet No. 8, and in Barshai’s arrangement for string orchestra, approved by Shostakovich.
Written in Dresden, in just three days in October of 1960, this quartet bears a dedication “In memory of victims of fascism and war.” While the character of the composition well lends itself to this dedication, even without knowing Shostakovich’s privately made statements (his daughter, Galina, recounted that after completing the quartet Shostakovich said: “I dedicated this work to myself,” and the same is found in the recently published letter to his friend, Isaak Glikman), it is very clear from the music itself that this work is autobiographical. Thematic material of all five movements is based on Shostakovich’s monogram — musical signature DSCH (D, E flat, C, B in German notation), and there are numerous quotations from his symphonies, and other works.
This composition is a testimony to Shostakovich’s incredible ability in just a few bars to create a complete emotional world. The opening movement is full of anticipation of tragedy, yet with moments of relief and hope. Then comes the brutal force and agony of the second movement, and the waltz-like third movement, full of typical Shostakovich bitter-sweetness. The fourth movement is introduced by a repetitive three-chord phrase, in which some hear gun shots, and others, including myself, the notorious KGB knocks on the door, followed by a quote from the revolutionary song “Tormented by Hard Bondage” and
the emotional culmination – an aria from his opera Katerina Izmailova. The fifth movement returns the material of the opening movement, but this time there is no more hope, just total acceptance of the tragic fate.
For many years I always follow this work with the performance of Bach’s First Contrapunctus from The Art of Fugue. Years ago, when I began performing this work, it struck me how unsettling it felt to hear applause after this composition. My experiments to ask the audience to refrain from applause produced no less unsettling result, especially when this composition was performed right before the intermission, which is usually the case. The only other solution was to go back to music immediately after this work. The moment I thought of Bach’s First Contrapunctus, it just felt right. Starting in the similar emotional atmosphere as the opening of the Chamber Symphony (on the rare occasions when we play this Contrapunctus on its own, it is played totally differently), it then takes a drastically different road, becoming a majestic hymn to the human spirit.
I would like to stress that by performing the Bach immediately after the Shostakovich I am not suggesting that anything needs to be added to what Shostakovich has said in his composition. On the contrary, this work is one of the most powerful and complete statements ever expressed in music. In fact, so much so, that for me, my colleagues and, hopefully you, the listener, another powerful statement is needed to restore the inner balance.
Tchaikovsky — Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70
It is interesting how some things experienced in childhood affect our perception for many years to come. Of the few things that I remember from my years at elementary school one stands out, perhaps because it proves its validity time after time. Our teacher showed us a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and said: “Now you all can move around the classroom, but keep looking at her, and you’ll notice that Mona Lisa’s eyes follow you wherever you go.” After that we had a jolly time enjoying this never-before-allowed freedom of movement during a lesson and indeed amusing ourselves with Mona Lisa’s ability to “watch” us (Communist Party leaders, looking at us from the portraits on the walls, could not do that), order in the classroom was re-established, and the teacher asked us to give our own reasons and explanations for Mona Lisa’s smile. Another round of jolly moments, as our interpretations were all so different. She summarized the subject with something like this: “One piece of great art makes all people feel the same, another piece of great art makes people feel a variety of emotions, but one thing is constant: great art always makes people feel.”
If not for this lesson, perhaps today I would indulge myself in poking fun at some musicologists for describing Souvenir de Florence as, for instance, “suffused with an atmosphere not often associated with this composer, of a calm geniality.” Calm geniality? Well, perhaps indeed for some. (An old joke: Texas man, looking at Niagara Falls: “Our plumber could fix this leak in a couple of hours.”). For me, this is one of the most turbulently passionate works in all music literature! Written in the winter of 1890, shortly after returning from Italy where Tchaikovsky had been working on his opera “The Queen of Spades,” it was perhaps indeed intended to be a light detour from the dark drama of the opera. It did not go this way, however. Tchaikovsky had complained to his brother, Modest, that he felt under great strain working on it. Yet he was very pleased with the results – until he heard it performed. Greatly dissatisfied, he completely rewrote two movements – it was at this time that the title “Souvenir de Florence” was added. Unlike “Capriccio Italien” composed some ten years earlier and full of Italian quotations, this work is decidedly Russian, with only the gorgeous bel-canto in the second movement suggesting a possible link to the title. Italy was a place where Tchaikovsky spent some of the happiest moments of his life which, perhaps, could be a key to the naming of the piece. The first performance of the revised version took place in 1892, led by the great Russian violinist and pedagogue Leopold Auer (teacher of Heifetz, Milstein and Zimbalist, among others), and had great success.
Tchaikovsky saw a great challenge in writing this work – a sextet for two violins, two violas and two cellos – in such a way as to give prominence to each voice. He succeeded magnificently. Performances of this work in string orchestra version are very common nowadays, and, strangely enough, multiplication of performing forces does not complicate, but rather helps in achieving the proper balance and allowing every voice to be heard. (Actually, there is a simple, albeit very technical, explanation of this phenomenon.)