About this Recording
2.110296 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - RUSSIA: A Musical Visit to Moscow and St Petersburg (NTSC)
English 

A Musical Tour of Russia
Moscow and St Petersburg
With music by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky

 

CHAPTER 1

Moscow: Kremlin • Conservatory of Music • Tretyakov Gallery • Hotel Ukraine • St Petersburg: Ballet School

Aspects of the Kremlin in Moscow are shown, including the onion domes of the Cathedral of the Annunciation, the Tsar Bell, reputedly the largest in the world, and the Kremlin Palace. There is a glimpse of the Bolshoy Theatre and a visit to the Moscow Conservatory, and sight of the imposing façade of the Hotel Ukraine on the West bank of the River Moskva, a monument to Stalin’s post-war building programme. People are seen in the snow, and a change to St Petersburg brings pictures of students at the City Ballet School. In Moscow again, the Tretyakov Gallery, presented to the city in 1892 by the millionaire businessman Pavel Tretyakov and housing the fullest collection of Russian art, provides portraits, Vasily Petrov’s Dostoyevsky, Nikolay Yaroshenko’s Lady Strepitova, Ilya Repin’s Mussorgsky, Ivan Kramskoy’s Unknown Lady, Valentin Serov’s Lady Hirschmann, Konstantin Somov’s A Lady in Blue, and Vasily Surikov’s Menshikov in Berezovo, a painting showing the exiled Prince Menshikov, at one time the most powerful man in Russia, and The Boyarina Morozova, condemned to death imprisoned in a convent, a supporter of the old faith in the religious schisms of Russia in the 17th century.

Music Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 4 in F minor, Op 36 – I. Andante sostenuto – Moderato con anima

In a letter to his generous and unseen patron Mme von Meck Tchaikovsky suggested, with various reservations about the difficulty of expressing musical thoughts in words, a programme for the symphony. The seed of the whole work lay in the opening theme, representing Fate, a threatening sword of Damocles, an invincible force to which one can only resign oneself and languish in vain, shown in the melody based on the descending scale that follows the ominous introduction. As despair grows, he suggests that there may be refuge in daydreams, represented by the clarinet melody that forms the second subject, immediately followed by the bright human image of joy. Reality and Fate intervene to shatter the illusion. Life is a continuing alternation of harsh reality and dreams of happiness.

CHAPTER 2

St Petersburg: Travelling in the winter landscape

The easiest way of travelling to the suburbs of St Petersburg is by Metro, a monument to Stalinist ambitions. There is something grandiose about the marble walls, carvings and chandeliers of the principal stations, part of a network of 58, taking passengers from the centre of the city to the outskirts.

Music Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 4 in F minor, Op 36 – II. Andantino in modo di canzone

In the second movement Tchaikovsky sees the sad weariness of evening, in which past happiness and past trouble may be remembered, a sense of bitter sweetness, reflected in the opening oboe melody that returns in the first violins after a contrasted central section.

CHAPTER 3

Moscow: Gorky Park • Winter Life

Gorky Park, named after the writer Maxim Gorky, was opened in 1928, incorporating earlier parks and pleasure gardens along the banks of the River Moskva. It offers a seasonal place for ice and snow sculptures, and here, as elsewhere, in the Russian winter, there are opportunities for skating, sliding and sledging, as well as for more necessary domestic activities.

Music Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 4 in F minor, Op 36 – III. Scherzo: Pizzicato ostinato. Allegro

The Scherzo, with its plucked strings, suggests fleeting images that hurry past in one’s imagination after a glass or two of wine, peasants drinking, a street song, and then a distant band of soldiers passing, with very Russian scoring for woodwind and then for brass, before the plucked strings resume their rapid progress and the images recur.

CHAPTER 4

Moscow: Kolomenskoye • Rostov: Kremlin

From the 16th century Kolomenskoye was a favourite country resort of the Tsar. Buildings include the Church of the Ascension, built in the 16th century and the onion domes of the Church of Our Lady of Kazan, built a hundred years later. Rostov’s former importance is seen in its 18th century Kremlin, once the seat of the Orthodox Metropolitan, and the earlier Cathedral of the Assumption.

Music Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 4 in F minor, Op 36 – IV. Finale: Allegro con fuoco

The last movement proposes an answer to depression in the company of others and in the enjoyment of the common people. The ebullient first theme is contrasted with a secondary melody, a Russian folk-song. One’s mood begins to change, but Fate brings a reminder of reality. Yet melancholy can disappear in the happiness of others. Tchaikovsky adds that the symphony is an echo of his own feelings of the previous winter, however inadequate his verbal expression of them.

CHAPTER 5

UKRAINE Crimean Landscape • Odessa: Belgorod Castle • Yalta: Vorontsov Palace
RUSSIA St Petersburg: Russian State Museum – Alexey Venezianov’s • Sleeping Shepherd Boy • Hermitage 1812 Gallery • Lake Komarovo • Castle Square and River Neva • Narva Arches • Moscow: Landscape • Smolensk Cemetery

The landscape of Crimea is intercut with the Sleeping Shepherd Boy, painted by Alexei Venezianov in 1824 and hanging in the Russian State Museum in St Petersburg. Other scenes from Ukraine include the 15th century Belgorod Castle near Odessa and the Vorontsov Palace in Yalta, built in the 19th century in English Tudor style. Scenes of the battles against the invading forces of Napoleon, finally defeated in 1812, are from the 1812 Gallery of the
Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and the triumphal Narva Arches in St Petersburg commemorate the same victory. Lake Komarovo, on the Karelian isthmus, is a resort easily reached from St Petersburg itself, some 28 miles away. The Smolensk Cemetery, which still serves something of its original purpose, was established on Vasilievsky Island in the 18th century.

Music Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture, Op 49

Tchaikovsky had doubts about the value of his 1812 Overture, written in response to a commission from Nikolay Rubinstein, director of the Moscow Conservatory, to celebrate the opening of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, timed to coincide with the Moscow Exhibition of Industry and the Arts and the silver jubilee of the Tsar in 1880. The new cathedral was designed to commemorate the events of 1812, when Napoleon had been forced into his disastrous retreat from Moscow. The overture offers a vivid depiction of the conflict, cannons and all, the French represented by the Marseillaise and Russia by an Orthodox chant and, in final victory, by the anthem God save the Tsar.

Keith Anderson

Recordings

Symphony No 4: Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra cond. Adrian Leaper [Naxos 8.572955]
1812 Overture: Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Stephen Gunzenhauser [Naxos 8.551102]


Close the window