St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Bach. Kancheli. Ives

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 1

Stanislav Izmailov (violin), Alexei Pozin (french horn), Petr Rodin (french horn), Emil Miroslavsky (oboe), Viktor Ukhalin (oboe), Andrei Yankovsky (oboe), Rodion Tolmachev (bassoon), Valeria Rumiantseva (harpsichord)

Giya Kancheli
Morning Prayers

Nikolai Mokhov (flute), Valeria Rumiantseva (harpsichord), Demian Gorodnichin (electric bass guitar)

Johann Sebastian Bach
Brandenburg Concerto No 2

Stanislav Izmailov (violin), Alexander Kiskachi (block flute), Emil Miroslavsky (oboe), Leonid Guriev (cornet), Valeria Rumiantseva (harpsichord)

Charles Ives
The Unanswered Question

Nikolai Mokhov (flute), Alexander Ozeritsky (flute), Sergei Kruchkov (cornet), Emil Miroslavsky (oboe), Ivan Stolbov (clarinet)

Mariinsky Orchestra
Conductor: Mario Brunello

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.

Bach gave prominence to the concerto which, it seems, he prized more than other music genres. The first movement of  Concerto No 1 for Two French Horns, Three Oboes, Bassoon, Octave Violin, Strings and Basso continuo appeared in 1713 under the title of a  “Symphony.” In 1726 Bach used it again as an introduction to his Cantata No 52 Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht (False World, I Do Not Trust You). The same year, the concerto’s third movement became the chorus that opens (secular) Cantata No 207,  which law students of the University of Leipzig performed to mark a new professor’s appointment. In 1734 Bach gave the cantata a new text (Auf schmetternde Töne der muntern Trompeten (Up,  Lively Trumpets’ Blaring Sounds)), on this occasion dedicating it to the name-day of Augustus III, Prince-Elector of Saxony. Concerto No 1 is also the longest of the Brandenburg concerti: the three compulsory movements are followed by a minuet and a polonaise, giving it the appearance of an overture-suite.

Concerto No 2 for End-blown Flute, Oboe, Violin, Trumpet, Strings and Basso continuo has always been a stumbling block for performers. The Brandenburg concerti in general stand out for their use of rare instruments and the extreme complexity of the music, but in this particular score the trumpet part exceeds every imaginable difficulty. In the 20th century an attempt was made to replace the trumpet with the clarinet and soprano saxophone, and in Germany a special “Bach trumpet” (something Bach himself had not even imagined) was even produced. Today, as before, this music can only be performed by true virtuoso musicians. But when performed well, every facet of Bach’s orchestration dazzles, emanating light and joy – the Brandenburg concerti are among the most poetic works ever written by any musician.
Anna Bulycheva

Giya Kancheli has composed symphony and chamber music in various genres and is widely known for his music for films (Mimino and Kin-dza-dza among others), the musical comedy Hanuma and music for plays staged by such directors as Georgy Tovstonogov and Robert Sturua. Since 1991 Kancheli has lived in Europe – initially in Berlin and, since 1995, in Antwerp. Kancheli’s deeply individual composition style can sometimes be recognised from just a few bars of the score. Its principal and most powerful expressive means are the contrast between the music of silence and grandiose “avalanches” of sound, between focussed quiet song and expressive triumphant explosions, as unexpected as a peal of thunder. The cycle Life without Christmas (1991 – 1993) includes four works – Morning Prayers, Daytime Prayers, Evening Prayers and Night Time Prayers – for chamber orchestra, various solo instruments and a tape recording. Evening Prayers, the first part written, is dedicated to Alfred Schnittke, who at the time was seriously ill having suffered his second stroke. Unlike liturgical music written to canonical texts, Kancheli’s cycle was not intended to be used in church services. As the composer himself says, “For me, Life without Christmas is a spiritual work but not a church piece. Like Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms or Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony with its Peace to Thee with the Saints or Mahler’s Eighth Symphony... The individual parts of the cycle can be performed absolutely anywhere – as at the premieres... Either way, the sound of the psalms in a recording, whatever the place and time, transforms them into some kind of moral postulations... The heavenly, “angelic” images of the Morning Prayers soar at some unreachable height, filling the gaze fixed upon it with sadness...” It is hard to imagine better “surroundings” for Giya Kancheli’s Morning Prayers than the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Iosif Raiskin

The Unanswered Question (1908) is the “calling card” of American composer Charles Ives. The charm of this utterly avant-garde piece lies in the combination of seriousness and innocence. In a break with traditions (or rather in his naivety not suspecting their existence), at the same time Ives made sure he built bridges between the work and the audience. It is hard to say what is more attractive – the piece itself or its programme, which is written into the score. The strings, which Ives advised be placed offstage, are so quiet they can barely be heard, embodying “the silence of druids who know, see and say nothing.” The trumpet (or, in its absence, the oboe, English horn or clarinet) repeats the “eternal question of life” at the same time as the “flutes and other elements” are occupied in “looking for an answer.” All of these sound objects are freely scattered in time – the performers indulge in “a little impromptu.”
Anna Bulycheva

Age category 6+

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