On 14 July at the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre there will be a performance by French pianist Lucas Debargue, recipient of the 4th prize at the recent Tchaikovsky Competition
On 14 July at the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre there will be a performance by French pianist Lucas Debargue, recipient of the 4th prize at the recent Tchaikovsky Competition.
Having commenced his career as a pianist at the age of eleven, Lucas – a student of Russian professor Rena Shereshevskaya at the École Normale de Musique de Paris “Alfred Cortot” – became one of the most talked-about participants in the Music Olympics 2015. His interpretations of Medtner, Mozart and Beethoven have stunned knowledgeable audiences at competition auditions throughout the world. The Moscow Association of Music Critics awarded him a special prize – the opportunity to perform a recital at the Moscow International House of Music in December 2015.
At the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre Lucas Debargue will be performing Beethoven’s Seventh Sonata, Medtner’s First Sonata and Ravel’s triptych Gaspard de la nuit.
Founded in 2012, the repertoire of the Astana Ballet includes both the world’s classical masterpieces and new productions by contemporary choreographers, varying themes of Turkic eposes and the national musical culture of Kazakhstan. At the previous Stars of the White Nights festival the company presented the ballet Alem. This year the national flavour of the repertoire will be represented with the one-act ballet Zhusan, our guests from Astana inviting audiences on a journey through the vast Kazakh steppe, steeped in myths and legends.
The programme of the second part of the evening includes a recent premiere by the company – the ballet Carmen which audiences first saw at the end of June. In the year since its last performance in St Petersburg the company has performed on tour in Moscow, Paris and Budapest. Its repertoire has expanded to include several works, one of which is a programme that presents the legacy of Anna Pavlova in a production by 1980s-1990s Mariinsky Theatre principal dancer Altynai Asylmuratova. The company is already working on a new project with choreographer Nikita Dmitrievsky, while in St Petersburg the Kazakh ballet will be presenting works choreographed by Mukaram Avakhri. Zhusan and Carmen were designed by Olga Shaishmelashvili, whose works are familiar to audiences in St Petersburg from her costumes for the Boris Eifman Theatre's productions of Rodin, Requiem and Up & Down.
On 9 and 13 July conductor Emmanuel Villaume will be appearing at the Concert Hall. The first evening features Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, while on 13 July there will be works by Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Wagner and Debussy. The conductor speaks about his choice of programme in an interview
On 9 and 13 July conductor Emmanuel Villaume will be appearing at the Concert Hall. The first evening features Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, while on 13 July there will be works by Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Wagner and Debussy. The conductor speaks about his choice of programme in an interview.
– Pelléas et Mélisande is an opera not frequently performed in theatres, and yet it is an acclaimed masterpiece by Debussy, and even of French music as a whole. As a conductor, where do you see the principal difficulty of this work?
– Pelléas et Mélisande is an absolute masterpiece and it is something very dear to most conductors who have any affinity with the French music. It is probably one of the most important pieces of the French repertoire, and yet even in France it is rarely performed. It’s a piece that is not obvious for the audience in general and it’s a piece which is difficult to stage. This is why I personally prefer for this piece to be performed in concert rather than in a staged version. There are many difficulties for all performers involved. As far as conducting concerned, the conductor has to keep an absolute orchestra discipline on the same level as required for the most complicated symphony but at the same time one has to follow the flow of the text, one has to support the narration of the drama, which is absolutely real, and one has to understand the delicate balance of colours between the words, the sentences, the meaning of phrase, what is not said by means of language, what does happen in terms of dramatic development and extremely elaborate, sometimes hard to pinpoint connection between all these elements and the orchestration and the general flow of music. So, the conductor has to concentrate their brain on a number of different aspects and at the same time to understand the piece as a whole. From this point of view, it is an absolute masterpiece and it’s always an incredible treat to conduct it.
– What dictates to you in the score of Pelléas et Mélisande – the precise French prosody? Or the suppression of expression? Or the brilliant orchestration?
– I think it is the balance between all of these aspects. If you take one of these aspects alone, you are likely to miss the feeling of the piece as a whole. So, listener’s ears should focus on all of these areas simultaneously. And if one of these aspects becomes weak, then the whole impression of the piece becomes weak. The main challenge for all singers is the natural flow of the prosody and the language and the way it is connected with the development of music. And if this flavour is missing then the entire piece won’t be understood properly. Likewise, if the orchestration is not understood in all of its subtility and elaborate association of colours, timbre and connection with the libretto, then again, the entire piece won’t be understood properly. If these emotions are missing, the entire work won’t make a great impression.
– What do you feel about Golaud, one of the main characters of the opera’s love triangle?
– All performers of the role of Golaud I have worked with had always been defending the character – interpreting the role in a way that he is a positive person. However I am not sure that this is indeed the case. He definitely has a temper. I think Golaud represents each of us in a way of our quest for a truth – the more you try to approach it, the more distant it becomes from you. He is a person of an incredible sensitivity who can not control his passion. But one can also see Golaud as the reflection of Pelléas. They are brothers and they are even more than brothers – in a way they both represent one kind of character. Pelléas’ behaviour is also driven by emotions. I think that stating whether Golaud is a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ character would be rather misleading. Each of us can recognize oneself in both Pelléas and Golaud. Without doubt, Golaud is equally important in the opera as both Pelléas and Mélisande.
– Pelléas et Mélisande is a long opera, and sometimes cuts are made. Will there be any cuts in the opera on 9 July?
– No, there will be no cuts. In my opinion, one shouldn’t make cuts in such masterpiece.
– The programme of the concert on 13 July includes masterpieces of Western European classical music – works by Wagner, Saint-Saëns, Ravel and Debussy. Is this your programme or did the theatre propose it? Where is the interest in this programme for you?
– The Mariinsky and I worked together on this program. There is always something arbitrary when one builds a program for the concert. Because of each of these works is a real masterpiece, I would say it was designed for the occasion of the festival. When one builds a program during the season, one usually selects a definite masterpiece and surrounds it with other things which are either light enough in comparison or lead to this piece adding something extra. I thought it would be great to perform Debussy’s La mer, which will provide a clear connection with the performance of Pelléas et Mélisande on 9 July. Then there is a French piece, Saint-Saëns’s Piano Concerto No. 2, which is a virtuosic piece for a pianist, and also rather rich in terms of colours and contrasts. Then, Ravel’s La valse, a work by another great French composer of the 20th century, along with Debussy. And finally, there is a music by Wagner – Introduction and Isolde’s Death from the opera Tristan und Isolde. The influence Wagner made on Debussy is extremely important. Although Debussy was distancing himself from Wagner, in his music he was always looking at that of Wagner. I thought it would be a good idea to reflect this connection between German and French music. We shouldn’t forget one thing: without Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde probably would’ve not been composed that way, and without Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande probably would’ve not been composed its way too. So, here is the connection between the pieces in the program. It must be fun to conduct this program altogether.
From 4 to 7 July the Mariinsky Orchestra under the baton of Valery Gergiev will be performing at the International Music Festival in Mikkeli. The festival, founded on the initiative of Finnish music historian and journalist Seppo Heikinheimo in 1992, runs on an annual basis in one of Finland’s most popular tourist destinations
From 4 to 7 July the Mariinsky Orchestra under the baton of Valery Gergiev will be performing at the International Music Festival in Mikkeli. The festival, founded on the initiative of Finnish music historian and journalist Seppo Heikinheimo in 1992, runs on an annual basis in one of Finland’s most popular tourist destinations. Initially formed around chamber music events, in 1993 the festival broadened its horizons with the arrival of Maestro Gergiev as its Artistic Director. Valery Gergiev and performers from the Mariinsky Theatre have enriched the calendar of the Finnish chamber festival with major symphony, vocal-symphony and organ music programmes. In addition to performances by the Mariinsky Opera under Maestro Gergiev, the festival presents talented young performers from Finland and Russia, for whom these concerts are a “boarding pass” to successful international careers. Currently the Mikkeli Festival is the most important cultural venue for the dialogue between Russian and Finnish music and art.
The Gergiev Festival is as old as and a kind of “companion” to the Stars of the White Nights festival in St Petersburg. Both festivals are united by the enchanting atmosphere of the short summer nights that are experienced in the far north, as well as the intensity and variety of the concert programmes. This year the Mariinsky Theatre will be performing four times at the Martti Talvela Concert Hall and twice at the Mikkeli Chamber Concert Hall. Key festival events will come with concerts by prize-winners of the ХV International Tchaikovsky Competition, as well as the cycle Musicians of the Mariinsky Orchestra.
On Saturday 4 July there will be a performance of Sibelius’ First Symphony and The Swan of Tuonela as well as Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto. The piano solo in the concerto will be performed by George Li, an American pianist who won 2nd prize at the ХV International Tchaikovsky Competition. The next evening, 5 July, Maestro Gergiev will present festival audiences with another three winners of the competition in the categories “violin” and “solo singing”. The programme features opera arias performed by Yulia Matochkina (1st prize-recipient) and Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar (1st prize and Grand prix), Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with soloist Yu-Chien Tseng (2nd prize), Elgar’s Military March No 1 from Pomp and Circumstance Marches and Enigma variations. On Monday 6 July the Mariinsky Theatre will give two concerts – a matinee and an evening performance. At midday, clarinet section soloist of the Mariinsky Orchestra Ivan Stolbov and pianist Ran Kim Ja will perform chamber ensemble works by Brahms, Debussy, Schreiner, Poulenc and Piazzolla. In the evening the Mariinsky Orchestra under Valery Gergiev together with Jonathan Roozeman (recipient of the VIth prize at the Tchaikovsky Competition in the “cello” category) will perform Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and Variations on a Rococo Theme, the Suite from Bartók's The Wooden Prince and Balakirev’s Overture to Themes from Three Russian Songs. Tuesday 7 July will see the final concerts of the festival. At the matinee performance Mariinsky Orchestra soloists Sofia Kiprskaya (harp), Nikolai Mokhov (flute) and Yuri Afonkin (viola) will present the programme From Bach to Piazzolla consisting of chamber music by Bach, Ravel, Tchaikovsky, Smetana, Debussy and Piazzolla. In the evening at the close of the Gergiev Festival in Mikkeli there will be performances of Rachmaninoff’s First Symphony, the Suite from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan and Saint-Saëns’ Second Piano Concerto. The solo in the piano concerto will be performed by Alexander Malofeyev – a thirteen-year-old wunderkind pianist who last year took 1st prize and the Gold Medal at the VIII International Tchaikovsky Youth Competition.
Immediately after the festival the Mariinsky Orchestra and Maestro Gergiev will depart for Baden-Baden, where together with leading soloists of the Mariinsky Opera and Chorus they will present a new production of Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades (Stage Director – Alexei Stepanyuk, 9 and 11 July) and a concert performance of Berlioz’ opera Les Troyens (12 July).
On 5 and 6 June the Mariinsky Ballet will be appearing at the Primorsk Opera and Ballet Theatre
The St Petersburg dancers will be appearing in a programme to close the second season of the Russian Opera House. At this highly contemporary theatre in the Far East, built in 2012, the Mariinsky Ballet will perform productions by Michel Fokine – Chopiniana with Anastasia Kolegova, Tatiana Tiliguzova, Yekaterina Chebykina and Filipp Stepin in the lead roles, Le Spectre de la rose with Svetlana Ivanova and Alexei Popov, the miniature The Swan with Kristina Shapran and the duet from Schéhérazade with Kristina Shapran and Ernest Latypov. The programme also features the Diane and Actéon pas de deux from the ballet La Esmeralda with Oxana Bondareva and Alexei Timofeyev.
– The organ and the piano is rather an unusual ensemble combination. What makes it special?
Thierry Escaich: It appears that these two instruments cannot be put together. But when I was composing my Choral’s Dream I wanted to give the organ flexibility and liveliness as well as giving the piano some of the colours that the organ possesses.
Eduard Kiprsky: A composer working on the creation of such a piece has to know the nature of the organ and take into account the variety of shading and colour that comes thanks to the change in timbres. In maestro Escaich’s Choral’s Dream the structure is incredibly varied and differentiated, the organ and the piano come together dynamically with an abundance of colouristic effects!
– In your programme, in addition to works by French composers, you have included two pieces from The Sleeping Beauty arranged for piano. Is there some kind of intrigue for you in such a combination?
Thierry Escaich: I think that in Tchaikovsky and Saint-Saëns’ melodies there is much that is shared, and we can hear this in Saint-Saëns’ scherzo. It was initially written for the harmonium and piano, but performing one of the roles on the organ gives the work an orchestral scale and dazzle. This music could also be used for a ballet.
– Eduard, you also compose a great deal. Does Kiprsky-the composer ever interfere with Kiprsky-the pianist?
Eduard Kiprsky: You can’t always control it. Min March this year at the Liszt Festival in Raiding over three days I had to perform four works by Liszt with an orchestra. At the time I tried to focus entirely on the performance. On the other hand, when some new musical ide or sketch turns up you have to try to embody that, however hard it may be, to use Schumann’s words, it is a gift from above that you have to share with others.
– Mr Escaich, you recently became the youngest member of the French Academy of Arts, other members of which have included Anton Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Cui. What is it like to be in such company?
Thierry Escaich: I’m very proud of it! The lyricism of Tchaikovsky, his talent for melody, just like Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestral genius, for me were ideals during my years as a student. French music owes them a great debt.
Speaking with Svetlana Nikitina
On Wednesday 1 July the names of the prize-winners of the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition were announced. In the “Solo Singing” category the women’s prize went to mezzo-soprano Yulia Matochkina, a soloist of the Mariinsky Academy of Young Opera Singers (1st prize). Soprano Antonina Vesenina, also a soloist of the Academy, won 4th prize.
The entire staff of the Mariinsky Theatre offers its heartfelt congratulations to its colleagues and wishes them every further success in their musical careers. Bravissimo!!!
The prize-winner’s gala concert will take place on 3 July at the Mariinsky-II. At the end of the concert the recipient of the Grand-Prix will be announced.
Marking the thirty-fifth anniversary of its establishment this year, in its performances the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen combines the age-old traditions of the German orchestral school with incredible freshness and pliancy of sound. The orchestra’s repertoire is based on works by the great German classics – Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann. Having headed the orchestra since 2004, Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi – a representative of a renowned musical family along with his father Neeme and younger brother Kristjan – has frequently appeared in St Petersburg, including with the Mariinsky Orchestra. Under Järvi’s baton the orchestra has produced significant results; it tours across the globe and its recordings of symphonies by Beethoven and Schumann have received prestigious international awards. The interpretations of Paavo Järvi, who this year was appointed Principal Conductor of the NHK Orchestra in Tokyo, are always well-considered and refined to the most subtle degree. During their last visit to the Stars of the White Nights festival in 2011 the German musicians performed all of Schumann’s symphonies, staggering audiences with the unexpected nature of their interpretations of familiar scores, literally freeing them of “retouching”.
On 27 June the Mariinsky Theatre hosted a performance by the violinist James Ehnes, a jury member of the Tchaikovsky Competition. Here is a brief interview with the musician before his recital.
– You play one of the finest Stradivarius instruments – it was crafted in 1715. Was it hard to get it?
– Yes! It was a long-long process. I first saw the instrument almost twenty years ago, in November 1996, and by September 1999 I have figured out a way of... well, basically I convinced someone to buy the instrument and let me use it. And then just, I guess, maybe four years ago I worked out a deal where I bought the violin from my patron. Now no one can take it from me! But these things are always difficult. They are hard to find, they are expensive, but ultimately they are very rewarding and incredibly inspiring.
– You’ve released the disc Homage, on which you perform baroque and romantic music – Bazzini, Ravel, de Falla, Vaughan Williams and Elgar – on nine different “named” violins and three violas. What have these instruments taught you? How did you decide which violin best suited the music of each composer?
– Well, luckily when I made this recording I already had known the instruments somewhat so I had an idea of their particular qualities so I came up with a list of pieces that I thought would be suitable for the disc in terms of timing and in terms of style and then basically I had a worksheet of about thirty pieces and twelve instruments and I tried to match them as best I could in the ways that show both the music and the instrument to the best advantage. But certainly each one of those instruments, as any great instrument, can teach you something. May be there is a sound that you hear when you are playing it, then it sticks with you and you’re trying to find this sound on your own violin, in a way that even if you stop playing the instrument it remains in your imagination.
– Bach’s sonatas and partitas for violin are a kind of violinist’s “Bible”. How often do you include them in your recitals and what does that music mean to you?
– Well, I think you summed it up very well – this is in way something very sacred to violinists, its music that every violist grows up studying, certainly for me pieces that I’ve studied and lived with for my entire performing life. But there are pieces that I play often that I enjoy playing often and I think that it can be a really wonderful experience particularly when one has the opportunity to play in a very beautiful space, and today, playing at the Mariinsky Concert Hall, it’s the perfect venue for this music, and I think when you have this glorious music you are very lucky to play on this instrument and the instrument of the hall is something that is so inspiring.
– Performing Bach these days is complicated without looking at the experience of historic performances. Where do you see your own place in the discussion between those who prefer the authentic and those who prefer the romantic?
– Well, I think that when any performer gets into trouble it is when they try to over intellectualize and justify the interpretive decisions they make. I think it is a funny thing that anyone could claim an idea of authentic performance because there are so many questions that will always be unanswered about how this music was originally performed and how it was intended to be performed. Certainly some of the historical studies that had been done in the recent generations and performances done by historically informed performers had done a great deal for people’s understanding of how this music can speak. But as far as where my own performances I think I have to leave it up to the listener. There are some listeners that would think it one way and others would think it another, and for myself I play it this way because I think that’s how it has to go.
– Do you write your own cadenzas for concerti? Or do you perform those composed by others?
– It depends on the piece, depends very much on the piece. I think that in the case when there is a cadenza written by the composer I go with that. In the case when there is not, such as Mozart or Beethoven, it depends on whether I think I have anything better than I can say. For Mozart concerti I have written my own cadenzas and I continue to tinker with them and come up with different things and so I do my own in Mozart and Haydn. For Beethoven, the cadenzas that I play are cadenzas by Fritz Kreisler, they are so fantastic that I wish every day I came up with ideas that good but I don’t feel that I have.
– You are now a member of the violin jury of the Tchaikovsky Competition. When you were younger did you not want to take part in the competition itself?
– I think that the Tchaikovsky perhaps more than any other competition out there provides opportunities that are very difficult to come by through other means. I fortunately was able to get some of those opportunities without having to do the competition, but certainly yes, I remember as a little boy hearing about the Tchaikovsky Competition, seeing things on TV and thinking how exciting would be not just to take part but just to be around it. And that has been absolutely true that the atmosphere of the last days of the semi-finals, the atmosphere at the Moscow Conservatory was electric, it was so exciting just to be there. I was nervous even though I was not even playing, so it’s an incredible thing!
The vocalists’ programme of the Tchaikovsky Competition is at its height at the Mariinsky Theatre. The first and second rounds will take place on 28 June in the Musorgsky Hall while the finale will be held on 30 June at the Concert Hall, where on 3 July there will be a gala concert of the prize-winners from every category.
In the foyer of the Mariinsky-II there is an exhibition prepared by the Glinka Museum. The walls are adorned with portraits of internationally acclaimed musicians and prize-winners of the competition when they were, in accordance with competition rules, under the age of thirty. Vladimir Ashkenazi who looks like himself and looks very different (1st prize for piano in 1962), the violin rivals Gidon Kremer and Vladimir Spivakov (1st and 2nd prizes in 1970), Elena Obraztsova and Maria Guleghina, the sixteen-year-old Grigory Sokolov, the young and delighted 1st prize-recipients Vladimir Krainev and Mikhail Pletnev... Many of the musicians – such as the violinists Victor Pikaizen and Viktor Tretyakov, the pianists Van Cliburn and John Lill – in time took places on the jury. Their portraits as competitors and judges have been selected for the exhibition.
On the website of the Mariinsky Theatre users can see a version of the exhibition where the photographs from the Glinka Museum are joined by photos from the Mariinsky Theatre Archive. Many of the company’s soloists have passed through the “crucible” of the competition, among them Vladimir Atlantov and Nikolai Okhotnikov who won the 1st and 2nd prizes in 1966 – the first competition to feature vocalists. Gegam Grigorian and Vladimir Chernov received the 2nd and 3rd prizes in 1982, Alexander Morozov was the winner in 1986, Marina Shaguch was the “silver finalist” in 1990, Yevgeny Nikitin in 1998, and Zlata Bulycheva received 4th prize in 1998. The “shortlist” focusses on photos of musicians from St Petersburg as well as those who may be heard frequently at the various Mariinsky venues. Wouldn’t you like to remember what Barry Douglas, Boris Berezovsky, Denis Matsuev and Albina Shagimuratova were like as their stars of glory began to shine?