St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Bach. Schnittke. Sollima

Conductor: Mario Brunello

Mario Brunello in the series of concerts Bach Shuffle marking the birth of Johann Sebastian Bach

The programme includes:
Johann Sebastian Bach
Brandenburg Concerto No 3
Soloists: Stanislav Izmailov (violin), Mikhail Rihter (violin), Dina Zikeyeva (violin), Artur Kosinov (viola), Andrei Petushkov (viola), Yevgeny Barsov (viola), Mario Brunello (cello), Vladimir Yunovich (cello), Oksana Moroz (cello), Kirill Karikov (double bass), Valeria Rumiantseva (harpsichord)

Alfred Schnittke
Concerto Grosso No 1
Soloists: Ilya Ioff (violin), Lidiya Kovalenko (violin), Valeria Rumiantseva (prepared piano and harpsichord)

Johann Sebastian Bach
Brandenburg Concerto No 6
Soloists: Yuri Afonkin (viola), Alexander Shelkovnikov (viola), Mario Brunello (cello), Vladimir Yunovich (cello), Oksana Moroz (cello), Kirill Karikov (double bass), Valeria Rumiantseva (harpsichord)

Giovanni Sollima
Violoncelles, vibrez!
Soloists: Mario Brunello (cello), Vladimir Yunovich (cello)

On 24 March 1721 Johann Sebastian Bach sent Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg, the scores of six concerti “for various instruments.” The Margrave, whom Bach had met in 1719 in Berlin, was a passionate music lover who collected the scores of more than two hundred concerti by various composers in addition to being a strong proponent of Antonio Vivaldi. Bach’s Brandenburg concerti were based on a model created by Vivaldi (almost all are in three movements and feature wind instruments), but each of them is highly original. No two are alike, each is unique, and together they comprise a veritable encyclopaedia of Baroque music.

Concerti Nos 3 and 6, unlike the other four, are concerti grossi (Baroque concerti for several soloists and orchestra). They were composed for chamber ensembles in which one person would perform each part, thus making each performer a soloist. When performed by a greater number of musicians one becomes a concerto grosso, the other an orchestral concerto.

Concerto No 3 was intended for three violins, three violas, three cellos and basso continuo. The symbol of the Trinity insistently comes to mind, which the basso continuo seems to disturb. But Bach composed this part, too, on three different lines for three different instruments – the cello, violone and harpsichord. He later transformed the first movement of the concerto into the introduction to Cantata No 174, Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem Gemüte (I Love the Highest with My Whole Heart, 1729). Instead of a second movement, there are just two fluctuating chords written in the score. Possibly this meant an improvised cadenza from the violin, harpsichord or other instrument; by putting something akin to a series of dots in the score, Bach was quite literally inviting the performers to work with him.

Brandenburg Concerto No 6 was composed for two violas, two violas da gamba and basso continuo. In a break with tradition, the “Cinderella” violas perform the solo, the noble violas da gamba accompanying. This can probably be explained by the fact that Bach’s then patron, the Prince von Anhalt-Köthen, loved to play the da gamba while Bach himself liked to play the viola (it is not hard to imagine which of the two was the more virtuoso performer!). In the second movement the da gambas fall silent and, to the background of an accompaniment continuo, the violas carry the infinitely beautiful two-voiced fugue. If the number of performers is increased, Concerto No 6 becomes a concerto grosso for two violas and low strings.
Anna Bulycheva

Alfred Schnittke (1934–1998) dedicated his Concerto Grosso No 1 to his friends, the violinists Gidon Kremer and Tatiana Grindenko. They appeared in the premiere performance of one of Schnittke’s most popular works on 20 March 1977 in Leningrad (the prepared piano and harpsichord were performed by Yuri Smirnov, while soloists of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra were conducted by Eri Klas).
A concerto-like nature always prevailed in Schnittke’s musical preferences. He was drawn by dialogue that, during a “competitive argument” between the soloists and the orchestra (or sections of the orchestra between one another), allowed the dramatic conflict of the work to be displayed visually.

Concerto Grosso No 1 is a vivid manifesto of polystylism in the composer’s art. The genre itself, relating to the baroque era, brought to life direct stylistic parallels with the music of Vivaldi, Corelli and Handel.
Along with the romanticisation of the past, particular contrast comes with the “diversions” of dissonances, the parodistic and mocking timbre of the prepared piano, highlights moderated in dodecaphonic (serial) technique.
Ultimately, the most expressive contrast is that born each and every time with the triumph of the “low” music of daily life in the “lofty” philharmonic genre. This includes the introductory theme of the Prelude, performed on prepared piano – this subsequently appears in other parts of the cycle as a relief theme of the entire work. There is also a sudden and shocking tango that is heard in the second Rondo episode. Apropos, the tango from Schnittke’s music was borrowed for Elem Klimov’s film Agony which remained on the shelf for years due to the caprices of censorship.
The Concerto Grosso contains several borrowings from Schnittke’s music for other cinema and documentary films, which underlines the composer’s insistent desire to blur the borders and to break down walls between genres in the consciousness of performers and audiences alike. Schnittke said that “musical language should be integral, as it always was.” Looking for this universal language brought the composer to create the trend in contemporary music that, thanks to his deft hand, became known as polystylism.

Giovanni Sollima (1962–) is an Italian composer and cellist. He has won acclaim as a superlative classical performer as well as for his experiments in jazz, rock and even pop music. Above all else, Sollima values freedom of interpretation and boldly mixes diverse performing styles – authentic baroque, jazz improvisations and unique-sounding guitar “riffs” on the cello in the spirit of legendary rock musicians. Not for nothing has Giovanni Sollima been called the Jimi Hendrix of the cello. The musician himself underlines his all-embracing love for music that knows no borders between “high” and “low” genres: from the baroque to rock.
“You know,” he says, “the cello has a great deal in common with the electric guitar. They can both sing and they can both scream. You can use this instrument to express any emotion – you can cry, you can laugh and you can smile. I am always borrowing techniques from the arsenal of the electric guitar.” The cellist works with major contemporary musicians, among them Riccardo Muti, Gidon Kremer and Yuri Bashmet. As a composer he has received commissions for music for films and theatre productions from directors including Peter Greenaway, Robert Wilson and Peter Stein. Sollima studies the folklore of his native Sicily and other nations in the Mediterranean and takes an avid interest in performing ethnic instruments of East and West.

Giovanni Sollima’s compositions have developed in the genre of freely interpreted “minimalism”. Using a repetitive technique, he strives for emotional openness, he turns to the “intonation dictionary” of romanticism and he creates a – generally – major one-part musical form from “repeated structures.” This is the case with Cellos, Vibrate!, a work for two cellos and string orchestra. The vivid music, changeable in terms of mood, attracts with its variety of dynamic nuances, themed gradations and relief culminations.
Iosif Raiskin

Age category 6+

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