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Showing posts with label Chopin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chopin. Show all posts

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The connections between Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, and Scriabin with Joanna MacGregor

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)








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Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Thursday, 16 October 2014

What I am looking forward to in the Cambridge Classical Concert Series… (Part IC)

What I am looking forward to in the Cambridge Classical Concert Series… (Part IC)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


17 October


What I am looking forward to in the Cambridge Classical Concert Series… (Part IC)


On Friday 17 October at 7.30, Cambridge Corn Exchange (@CambridgeCornEx) hosts the first in its annual Cambridge Classical Concert Series

The programme for Friday has Natasha Paremski (@natashaparemski) as soloist in Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43, with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (@rpoonline) under the conductorship of Fabien Gabel

According to the score, Sergei Rachmaninov (1873–1943) wrote his Rhapsody between 3 July (Franz Kafka’s birthday (in 1883)) and 18 August 1934 - which seems a reasonably short time, but see what follows.


Rachmaninov and Brahms

Some people like to see it as something Russian – as if pigeon-holing helps* – that Tchaikovsky’s response to success was often introspection and melancholy, or that, on the other hand, Sergei Rachmaninov was sensitive to new works of his being poorly received. (So much so that, around the turn of the century, he lost faith in his powers as a composer, but seemed to find help through hypnosis from, and conversation about music with, Dr Nikolay Dahl, an amateur musician.)

Neither composer can have been helped by the fact that the standards to which we have become accustomed to-day, not only of musicianship and of time and space to prepare works for performance, but also of seeking more to be objective in reviews of concerts and new music, did not always obtain, even at the turn of the nineteenth century. Well into the twentieth century, indeed, as well as having to make a living / become accepted as a composer, since Rachmaninov was still performing in the winter of 1942–1943 (in support of war relief) – it is thought that it was partly because of it that he died, on 28 March 1943 (in Beverly Hills, California).

The length of time that Brahms took to write his Symphony No. 1 (in C Minor, Op. 68) has been mentioned elsewhere in writing about the relatively short gestation of his Symphony No. 2 (in D Major, Op. 73) : essentially, a question at that time of seeming cramped, or inhibited, in the symphonic form, by feeling himself to be in Beethoven’s shadow.

The further link with Rachmaninov is that some premieres of Brahms’ works suffered equally for lack of orchestral preparation, not to mention the entrenched hostility of some critics : if, though, we were still paying regard to what they wrote after the first performance (in Leipzig) in January 1859, we would not be listening to Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1* (in D Minor, Op. 15). (In it, he affected to transmute material from a predecessor to the Symphony No. 1.)

As many will know, Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Op. 43) is indeed rhapsodic in nature. Yet by way of what could potentially have been episodic, because it consists of a set of twenty-four variations on the theme from Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 in A Minor (itself a Tema con Variazioni), but made effortlessly flowing.

And the piece comes with much musical / numerical resonance with, amongst other comprehensive compositions, Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (Das Wohltemperierte Klavier) Book I (BWV 846–869) and II (BWV 870–893), Chopin’s Preludes (Op. 28)**, as well as his own two sets of Preludes (Opp. 23, 28) : in total twenty-three, which, with the early Prelude in C Sharp Minor (from the Morceaux de fantaisie, Op. 3), cover all the major and minor keys***.

The Rhapsody is famously complete with Rachmaninov’s favourite evocation, the theme of the Dies irae, and the inestimable, graceful beauty that is variation XVIII. Not uniquely amongst his compositions, it cries out for dance, and the ballet is where, new to his work, it was first heard : the sophistication of the orchestration, the inventiveness of the inversions and transmutations, the subtlety of the transitions, must have thrilled Baltimore in 1934 at its world premiere, and its first British performance in Manchester in 1935…


Michael Kennedy’s trusty third edition of The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music**** (though, for some purposes, one would not refuse the donation of a new edition…) rightly calls it one of his finest works, for it is simply glorious – energetic, lively, thoughtful, passionate, but also abstracted, and slightly matter of fact in a tongue-in-cheek way.

So that is certainly something to relish in the coming season !


End-notes

* Or helps anything – other than further viewing someone different as ‘other’, whereas one could try to understand him or her.

** Plus two sets of twelve Études, Opp. 10, 25.

*** There is also, of course, the so-called Revolutionary Prelude, in D Minor.

**** Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1980.




Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)