|About this Recording
8.553242 - Russian Spectacular
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky (1839 - 1881)
Alexander Porfir'yevich Borodin (1833 - 1887)
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893)
Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (1844- 1908)
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was born in 1839, the son of a land-owner. As a young officer he had musical ambitions, and without any training in composition tried his hand at an opera, as well as lesser compositions for the entertainment of his friends. It was a meeting with Cui and with the composer Dargomizhsky that led him to a more influential association with Balakirev and Stasov.
After leaving the army, Mussorgsky held various positions in the civil service. At his death in 1881, the result of epilepsy induced by alcoholism, he left a great deal unfinished, including the opera Khovanshchina, later completed by Rimsky-Korsakov, who took it upon himself to serve as musical executor to both Mussorgsky and Borodin. His great Russian opera Boris Godunov was to be revised by Rimsky-Korsakov, who applied his technical abilities to smoothing out apparent crudities in this and other works.
The origin of the orchestral piece Night on the Bare Mountain lies in music written for a play, The Witch, by a friend from Mussorgsky's time in the army. The composer later had the idea of writing an opera on a story by Gogol, St. John's Eve. In 1867, dismissed for the moment from the civil service, he found the leisure to write an orchestral work based on the material he had composed to depict a witches' Sabbath, held on the eve of the Feast of St. John, at mid-summer, on Bare Mountain. Mussorgsky was to make use of the same music five years later for an abortive stage-work, in which he collaborated with Rimsky- Korsakov, Borodin and Cui.
As seems usual on these occasions, the witches' celebration starts with relative decorum, before proceeding to more characteristic activities. Throughout Mussorgsky derives his inspiration from Russian folk-song, an element never far from the musical idiom he employed.
Alexander Porfir'yevich Borodin was the illegitimate son of a Georgian prince, his name and patronymic taken, according to custom, from one of the prince's serfs. He was brought up by his mother, who later married a retired army medical officer. Borodin studied at the Medico-Surgical Academy in St. Petersburg, where he made his subsequent career as a professor of chemistry, his work internationally known and respected. He died of a heart-attack at the age of fifty-three during the course of a fancy-dress ball given by the professors of the Academy.
Borodin's professional career left him relatively little time for music. His first symphony had occupied him intermittently between 1862 and 1867, while the second, started in 1869, reached its final form twelve years later. From 1870 onwards he worked at his opera Prince Igor, for which Stasov had sent him a scenario, writing music and words piece- meal, but without ever providing himself with a full libretto. At his death in 1887 the opera was still unfinished and was to be filled out by Rimsky-Korsakov and his young colleague Glazunov as best they could.
In the Steppes of Central Asia, described by the composer as'' a musical picture", was written in 1882. It depicts the journey of a caravan through Central Asia, with a Russian theme joining with an oriental theme, as two groups meet on their long journey. The piece, the result of a commission from several composers for music to illustrate a pageant of events in the reign of Alexander II, proved enormously popular. Borodin dedicated the work to Liszt.
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky was born in 1840, the second son by his second wife of a mining engineer, manager of metal works. At home he showed musical precocity and in 1848 he had his first experience of school in St. Petersburg. Two years later he entered the School of Jurisprudence, where he remained for nine years, later entering the government service. fu 1863 he resigned from his position in the Ministry of Justice and became a student at the newly established Conservatory in St. Petersburg, following this with appointment to the staff of the new Conservatory in Moscow. He remained on the staff of the Moscow Conservatory until 1878, when a pension from a rich widow, with whom he corresponded for years but whom he never met, gave him independence to continue a career as a composer. He died when he seemed at the height of his powers, in 1893.
The story of Romeo and Juliet is too well known to need repetition. Tchaikovsky makes no attempt to follow the events as they occur in Shakespeare's play. There is the solemnity of Friar Laurence, whose well-intentioned intervention is the indirect cause of the tragedy, a theme re-creating the traditional enmity of the houses of Montague and Capulet and a sensuous melody expressing the love of Romeo and Juliet. The overture is in traditional sonata-form, the exposition, with its principal thematic material, followed by a central development and a final recapitulation, in which love ends in death. The original Overture was revised in 1870, on the suggestion of Balakirev, and underwent further revision in 1880, when it became an Overture-Fantasy.
The Italian Capriccio was written in 1880. Tchaikovsky had started the work in Rome, where he spent part of the winter of 1879/1880 with his brother Modest and the latter's young pupil Kolya. Originally envisaged as an Italian Suite on folk melodies, the work was modelled to some extent on Glinka's Spanish fantasias. The Capriccio opens with a fanfare that echoes the sound that the composer heard every morning in Rome from the barracks next to his hotel. Four other Italian melodies are used, the last a Neapolitan tarantella known as Ciccuzza. The work received its first performance in Moscow in December, 1880, under the direction of Nikolay Rubinstein.
Rimsky-Korsakov's famous Capriccio espagnol began as a Fantasia on Spanish Themes for violin and orchestra, but was eventually completed in 1887 in its present form. Rimsky- Korsakov belonged to the musical generation after Glinka and once he had relinquished his original career as a naval officer devoted himself to the cause of Russian music with a professionalism that some of his contemporaries lacked. He was one of the five nationalist composers, Stasov's Mighty Handful, under the influence of Balakirev, and possessed particular ability in orchestration, a gift he was later to exercise in removing apparent crudities from the music of Mussorgsky and in completing what Borodin had left undone. He stressed that the brilliant Capriccio espagnol was intended as a display of orchestral colour, an aim which it achieves admirably.
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
In 1977 Daniel Nazareth made his debut as a conductor of opera with Mozart's Cost fan tutte at the Spoleto Festival, and in 1978 he conducted The Marriage of Figaro, The Barber of Seville and La Traviata for the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto. In March 1982 he conducted a new production of Benjamin Britten's The Rape of Lucretia for the Arena Theatre in Verona. In 1976 he was awarded the Leonard Bernstein Conducting Fellowship and the Koussevitsky Music Foundation Conductor's Award at Tanglewood, and in 1978 he won the first International Ernest Ansermet Conducting Competition in Geneva.
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