About this Recording
2.110290 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - RUSSIA / UKRAINE: A Musical Visit to St Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa and the Crimea (NTSC)
English 

A Musical Visit to the Russian cities of St Petersburg and Moscow, and to Ukraine
With music by Piotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky

 

CHAPTER 1

St Petersburg: Smolensk Cemetery • Lomonosov Palace and Gardens
The Hermitage: Pavilion Hall • Smolny Convent

The Smolensk Cemetery, which still serves something of its original purpose, was established on Vasilievsky Island in the 18th century, with one of its two churches dedicated to the Theotokos of Smolensk. Lomonosov Palace at Oranienbaum was in fact built in the 18th century for Peter the Great’s adviser Prince Menshikov, and was for long known by its original name as the Menshikov Palace. The palace later became the residence of the future Peter III, who added his own palace to the earlier buildings, and was later a retreat for Catherine the Great. The Hermitage, greatly enlarged under Catherine the Great, is one of the great art galleries of the world, occupying a complex of buildings. Among its splendours is the Pavilion Hall, dating from the 19th century, with its striking mosaic floor. The architect of the Winter Palace was Bartolomeo Rastrelli, whose work in St Petersburg for the Tsarina Elisabeth also includes the impressive Smolny Convent, which brings together baroque conventions with something essentially Russian.

Music Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 – I. Andante – Allegro con anima

While his Fifth Symphony has no declared programme, Tchaikovsky’s own notes suggest that some personal extra-musical ideas were in his mind: “Introduction. Complete resignation before Fate, or, which is the same, before the inscrutable decrees of Providence. Allegro (I) Murmurs, doubts, lamentations, reproaches against XXX. (II) Shall I throw myself into the arms of Faith??” A “Providence” or “Fate” theme introduces the symphony and re-appears, in one form or another, in all four movements. At its first appearance it is played by the clarinets, and leads, with ominous drama, to the Allegro con anima, where clarinet and bassoon share the first melody. The second theme is more lyrical in character, marked molto cantabile er espressivo, with more than a hint of that facility that was to find expression in Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Sleeping Beauty in the following year.

CHAPTER 2

St Petersburg: White Nights by the River Neva

In June it seems that the sun hardly sets over St Petersburg, bringing the so-called white nights. The River Neva runs from Lake Ladoga to the Gulf of Finland. Along its bank are the great palaces and public buildings of St Petersburg, while crossing is possible by means of the various bridges. The statue of Peter the Great, known, after Pushkin, as the Bronze Horseman, is seen in silhouette in the half-light.

Music Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 – II. Andante cantabile con alcuna licenza – Moderato con anima

The second movement of the symphony is introduced briefly by the lower strings, and the principal theme, breathing an air of serenity, is entrusted to the French horns. Oboe, clarinet and bassoon have something to add to this, before the entry of the strings. The mood is finally shattered by the return of the opening motto theme.

CHAPTER 3

St Petersburg: Autumn in the Summer Gardens

It is possible to escape from the traffic of the city into the Summer Gardens, designed, under Peter the Great, in emulation of Versailles. The gardens contain statuary and are planted with avenues of imported trees and, since the floods of 1777, have been rather in the English than the formal French style.

Music Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 – III. Valse: Allegro moderato

The third movement of the symphony is a waltz, which replaces the more traditional scherzo. It is derived from the motto theme, an element that is to make an even more identifiable appearance.

CHAPTER 4

Moscow: Donskoy Monastery • Arbat • Stalin Buildings • Tchaikovsky Concert Hall • Bolshoy Theatre • Hotel Metropole • Lomonosov Terrace • Red Square • Kremlin

The Donskoy Monastery, with its 17th century Cathedral, was founded by Boris Godunov in 1595 to honour the icon of the Donskoy Virgin, credited with the rescue of the city from Mongol invaders on two occasions. Arbat Street, the old street now pedestrianised, reveals something of traditional Moscow, with its shops and cafés. Stalinist Gothic buildings offer something very different, exemplified in the massive and towering foreign ministry building, completed shortly before Stalin’s death in 1953. Among major artistic venues is the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, and of still greater fame the Bolshoy Theatre, originally established in the late 18th century. The Hotel Metropole offers a fine example of style moderne, with its mosaics and carved stone friezes. Lomonosov Terrace, like the great university of Moscow, takes its name from the founder of the university in 1755, Mikhail Lomonosov. Red Square was so designated long before the Communist regime took power, retaining a name that had new significance. It is bordered by churches and public buildings, and by the wall of the Kremlin, the centre of Russian government.

Music Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 – IV. Andante maestoso – Allegro vivace

The Finale of the symphony has provoked unfavourable criticism from those who looked for an obviously triumphant resolution of conflict in a last movement. The motto theme of the first movement and its principal subject make a major appearance, but, for some at least, it has seemed that Fate or Providence still wins in the end.

CHAPTER 5

Ukraine: Homage to Pushkin – The Crimea • Odessa • Art Museum
Russia: St Petersburg and Moscow

Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837), Russia’s greatest poet, was born in Moscow and showed early brilliance. His poems, which seemed to threaten the political stability of Russia, led, in 1820, to a period of exile. He travelled to the Caucasus and the Crimea, drawing inspiration from Byron, and then to Kishinyov, now the capital of Moldavia, before moving to his parents’ estate, where he was still under surveyance. Released by Tsar Nicholas I, he spent time in Moscow and St Petersburg and then participated in hostilities against Turkey. The subject of gossip, as was the wife he had married in 1831, in 1837 he challenged one of his detractors to a duel, in which he was shot and died. Homage to Pushkin shows portraits, including paintings by Orest Kiprensky, Vasily Tropinin and Ivan Aivazovsky, statues and documents, with views of the sea and coast of the Crimea, where Pushkin claimed to have spent his happiest days. His poems and verse dramas inspired many composers, for Tchaikovsky principally his most famous operas, Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades.

Music Tchaikovsky: Marche Slave, Op. 31

Tchaikovsky wrote his Marche Slave in October 1876 in response to a request from Nikolay Rubinstein for a work to be played at a Moscow concert in aid of those who had suffered in the Balkan conflict with Turkey, against whom Montenegro and Serbia had declared war. The original title of the work was Serbo-Russian March, and Tchaikovsky used in it fragments of three Serbian melodies, with a reference to the Russian Imperial Anthem before the return of the opening material in a final, third section. The use of the anthem was well calculated to appeal to the patriotic emotions of the day.


Keith Anderson


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