Shostakovich’s two Piano Concertos span a period of almost thirty years. The youthful First Piano Concerto is a masterful example of eclecticism, its inscrutable humour and seriousness allied to virtuoso writing enhanced by the rôle for solo trumpet. Written as a birthday present for his son Maxim, the Second Piano Concerto is light-spirited with a hauntingly beautiful slow movement. With the permission of the composer’s family, Boris Giltburg has arranged the exceptionally dark, deeply personal and powerful String Quartet No. 8, thereby establishing a major Shostakovich solo piano composition.
Leonard Bernstein’s legendary 1943 Carnegie Hall conducting début brought his name to national attention, and the event was followed a few months later by the triumphant reception of his Symphony No. 1 ‘Jeremiah.’ This major symphonic statement explores a crisis in faith and employs Jewish liturgical sources, its final movement, Lamentation, being an anguished cry at the destruction of Jerusalem. Sharing the theme of loss of faith, Symphony No. 2 ‘The Age of Anxiety’ takes W.H. Auden’s poem of the same name and follows its four characters in their spiritual journey to hard-won triumph. Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Kaddish’ can be heard on Naxos 8.559742.
Alban BERG (1885–1935)
Libretto by Georg Büchner
Roman Trekel, Wozzeck (Baritone) • Anne Schwanewilms, Marie (Soprano)
Marc Molomot, Captain (Tenor) • Nathan Berg, Doctor (Bass-Baritone)
Members of Houston Grand Opera Children’s Chorus
Karen Reeves, Chorusmaster
Chorus of Students and Alumni, Shepherd School of Music, Rice University
Houston Symphony Orchestra • Hans Graf
Listen to CD 2 TRACK 1: Act II, Scene 1: Mariens Stube (Marie’s Room):
‘Was die Steine glänzen?’ (Marie, Marie’s Child (silent), Wozzeck)
Based on real events and playwright Georg Büchner’s starkly vehement text, Alban Berg’s tragic opera Wozzeck is an epoch-making work, in stark contrast to the previous high romantic ideals of the genre, that led Schoenberg to exclaim “now that’s what I call an opera!” Immensely powerful and heartbreakingly moving as a drama, Wozzeck explores the victimisation, despair and madness of a central character who has no place in society, its deeply humane message and sublimely innovative score firmly establishing it as a 20th-century masterpiece.
Listen to TRACK 15: Daphnis et Chloé: Troisième partie - Pantomime
Composed for Sergey Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Ravel’s ‘symphonie chorégraphique’ Daphnis et Chloé is based on a classical Greco-Roman love story set on the island of Lesbos. He described the work as ‘a vast musical fresco’, and with its extraordinarily passionate music, lush harmonies and orchestration, is considered both his masterpiece and the epitome of Impressionism in music. Orchestrated from the third of his Miroirs for piano, Ravel’s Une barque sur l’océan is an evocative portrayal of the ever-changing moods of the sea.