St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Tchaikovsky. Shostakovich

Soloists: Nobuyuki Tsujii (piano), Olga Sergeyeva (soprano), Yuri Vorobiev (bass)

Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Valery Gergiev


The programme includes:
Dmitry Shostakovich
Symphony No 14 in eleven movements for soprano, bass, string orchestra and percussion, Op. 135

Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Piano Concerto No 1 in B Flat Minor, Op. 23

In early March 1969 Shostakovich completed one of his most perpetual works – the Fourteenth Symphony, executed in the form of a vocal cycle for bass, soprano and chamber orchestra. The texts of the first two parts are by Spanish poet Federico Garcнa Lorca, who died tragically during the Spanish Civil War. The third is based on a ballade by the German Romantic Klemens Brentano in the French translation by Guillaume Apollinaire. Parts four to eight were written to words by Apollinaire, part nine to words by Wilhelm Kьchelbeker and the last two sections to words by Rainer Maria Rilke.
The Fourteenth Symphony is dedicated to British composer Benjamin Britten, whose War Requiem Shostakovich considered a masterpiece of contemporary music. The Fourteenth Symphony is a unique negative of the Requiem: in structure it is closer to a mass for the dead, though in content it is not. The separate parts of the Fourteenth Symphony are distorted, “travesty” variations of parts of a requiem: where there should be a Lacrimosa in the Requiem, with Shostakovich (Madam, Look!) there is almost obscene hysterical laughter, instead of the Sanctus – a hymn to the Great Jehovah – the sultan is cursed, while the closing Libera me de morte aeterna motif is replaced by maxims on the absolute power of death.. Here the elegy O Delvig, Delvig! takes the place of the Benedictus – traditionally the brightest, most glorious part of a mass and dedicated to the Holy Spirit; not by chance alone is this section free of the spirit of negativism that pervades the rest of the symphony.

Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto is one of the most frequently performed works in the genre. The vivid lyricism and melodious expressiveness draw the attention of the public, while the richness of the piano score itself fascinates pianists. The merits of the concerto were not, however, immediately recognised. In 1875, when Tchaikovsky showed the work to his friend and teacher Nikolai Rubinstein, the latter declined the offer to perform the concerto, believing the structure was insufficiently “pianistic.” The concerto later gained renown in a revised version by Alexander Zilotti in which the virtuoso structure of the work was significantly expanded. Today both versions are performed to equal acclaim – Zilotti’s “traditional” version and the composer’s original, in which the virtuoso qualities do not overshadow the unusual melodious richness and expressiveness of the score. Tchaikovsky dedicated his concerto to the renowned pianist Hans von Bülow, who performed the work for the first time in Boston on 25 October 1875. Von Bülow’s subsequent performances in New York and Philadelphia enjoyed even greater success. Two months after the world premiere, on 3 December 1875 the concerto was performed by Sergei Taneyev in Moscow. In one of his letters, he named it the first Russian piano concerto – which was, in fact, true. It was this work that became the first classical example of the piano concerto in Russian music. It is frequently performed in concert halls throughout Russia and abroad, and since 1958 it has formed part of the compulsory programme of the final round of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.
Levon Akopian

Age category 6+

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