Saturday, 1 August 2020

Zooming from Kamarinskaya to The Firebird

So my last non-operatic Zoom class has run the symphonic gamut from Haydn to Adams, and I'm very proud of what we achieved - not least the participation of spectacular special guests each week, which waxed as lockdown dragged on. Just for the record, we had Jonathan Bloxham and Ian Page on Haydn, Mark Wigglesworth and Jonathan again on Beethoven 3, Nick Collon on Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Catherine Larsen-Maguire on Schumann 2, Brahms 1 and Adams' Harmonielehre (and much more from her as regular visitor to the other classes), Vladimir Jurowski on Brahms 4 and Tchaikovsky 6, Paavo Järvi on Mahler 3, Vasily Petrenko on Mahler 9 and Elgar 2, Kristiina Poska and Andres Kaljuste on Sibelius 5, Andres again on Nielsen 5, Mark Elder on Vaughan Williams 6, Elizabeth Wilson and Peter Manning on Shostakovich 15.  Friend and sometime student Juliette made an artist's impression of the Brahms/Tchaikovsky class; probably wasn't paying full attention but I'm amused to see this. 'Vlad' is in the centre of the bottom row (!) Click to enlarge if you really want to see the grisly details - and if you were there and on the second 'page', think yourself lucky to have escaped.

In that ripe time, Madama Butterfly on the Opera Course was also enriched by three major exponents joining us for three full two-hour sessions: Ermonela Jaho, Antonio Pappano and Mark Elder. A glorious complement indeed to Susan Bullock's presence throughout our Elektra classes.

Opera in Depth will resume with ten Monday afternoons on Götterdämmerung, starting late September and concluding our three-year survey of Wagner's Ring (any excuse to feature another of Anselm Kiefer's majestic apocalyptic visions from one of two White Cube exhibitions which knocked me for six, pictured below). It will remain on Zoom, as though Pushkin House is re-opening on a limited basis, I doubt if many students will want to return. I'm nearly halfway through Siegfried for the Wagner Society of Scotland, regretful at not returning to the woods of Gartmore this year; in September 2021 we'll probably embark on Tristan und Isolde.

At the same time I didn't want to disappoint the enthusiasm of the surprisingly big following for the symphony course - plus of course I need to be employed during this difficult summer, and I'm lucky that it can be on something I love - so this coming Thursday afternoon (6 August) I'll undertake a survey of Russian music from Glinka's Kamarinskaya to Stravinsky's The Firebird. If that's successful, we'll press on to the Soviet era in a second course.

For the outline, I only have to repeat what I wrote before beginning the symphony course.Below are the plans for all 10 classes, just so that I have them in something I can link to rather than just on an attachment. Message me if you'd like to join for all or some: it's a bargain (I halved the usual fees because I don't have room hire expenses and Zoom is, after all, not live with great equipment to hand, so it's £10 a class, ie £5 an hour. We meet on Thursday afternoons (exact time to be confirmed - one student suggested we start at 2.30pm rather than 3.30) tomorrow, 3.30-5.50pm. and if anyone misses a class or has connection/sound issues their end, I can send on a recording of the whole thing. Send me a message with your email and I won't publish it, but I'll be sure to get back to you.

Special guests TBC (though there will be fewer of them than during strict quarantine time...). Pictured up top: Glinka by Repin (detail), The Firebird by Bakst. The three illustrations below are by the Russian artist Ivan Bilibin, starting with the scene where Pushkin's Ruslan meets the giant head.

1: Glinka: Russian acorns  6 August
The indisputable father of distinctively Russian music and his three most influential works: the short orchestral fantasia on two folksongs Kamarinskaya, the nationalist-history opera A Life for the Tsar and the fairy-tale opera Ruslan and Lyudmila, the first of many to be based on a work by Alexander Pushkin.

2: From 'the Five' onwards 1: national style  13 August
It was only for a brief while that Balakirev gathered round him the composers who would take up the legacy of a truly Russian style - Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Musorgsky and Cesar Cui. But the influence on the future was huge.

3: From 'the Five' onwards 2: the influence of the east  20 August
Composers, like poets, travelled far and wide, especially around the fringes of the Russian Empire, and absorbed Persian and eastern music into a new 'exotic' style.

4: 'The intonations of native speech': a new kind of opera  27 August
Dargomyzhsky's The Stone Guest, based on Pushkin's original take on the Don Juan legend, pointed a way forward in the speech-melodic setting of verse. Musorgsky took it one step forward in the prose scene of Boris Godunov and his unfinished Gogol opera The Marriage.

5: Piano music epic and intimate  3 September
Musorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and Tchaikovsky's The Seasons.

6: The symphony: from Rubinstein to Tchaikovsky  10 September
Was there an element of anti-Semitism in Balakirev and co's rejection of symphonies by Anton Rubinstein? At any rate. the great achievements in the form did not come until the Second Symphony of Borodin and Tchaikovsky's experimentation with form.

7: The great Tchaikovsky ballets  17 September
Inspired by Delibes, Tchaikovsky took the art of piquant orchestration and original melody to supreme heights in Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker.

8: New paths in chamber music   24 September
The formation of chamber music circles and the advent of a supremely gifted composer in the form, Sergey Taneyev, brought big steps forward from the 1890s onwards.

9: Tchaikovsky's natural successor   1 October
Rachmaninov made his mark on the world of Russian music as a teenager with his C sharp minor Prelude and the one-act opera Aleko. We look at his specifically Russian works for both piano and orchestra, culminating in a masterpiece, his 'Choral Symphony' The Bells.
10: The end of a fairy-tale tradition: Rimsky-Korsakov and Stravinsky  8 October
Rimsky-Korsakov's fantasy operas attained a new depth in his greatest work for the stage, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh. His pupil Stravinsky made a last great synthesis of nationalist elements in his first ballet for Diaghilev and Paris, The Firebird.


Susan said...

Brilliant class, and lovely to see it all recorded here. I would like very much to join in the Russian music class. I don't DM, but will email you on that.

David said...

Thanks for support as ever, Sue. Not sure what DM is, but I'm about to email you back.