About this Recording
2.110293 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - RUSSIA / UKRAINE: St. Petersburg / Crimea / Odessa (NTSC)
English 

A Musical Visit to Russia and Ukraine
With music by Piotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky

 

CHAPTER 1

RUSSIA St Petersburg: Lake Rasliv • Mukhina Art School
Paintings by Ivan Aivazovsky, Russian Museum
Moscow: Tchaikovsky Concert Hall
UKRAINE Crimea: Foros Church, Mountains and Landscape

Lake Rasliv is seen by night and as dawn gradually breaks. The Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow brings memories of the composer in manuscripts and portraits. Students are seen at work in the Mukhina Art School in St Petersburg. The painter Ivan Aivazovsky was born in Feodosia in the Crimea in 1817 and died in 1900. His best known work, The Wave, is now in the Russian Museum in St Petersburg. The nine-domed church of Foros, with its icons and representation of the Finding of the True Cross by St Helena, is perched on a hill-top overlooking the Black Sea in a region of impressive nearby scenery.

Music Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, Pathétique – I. Adagio – Allegro non troppo

The sixth and last of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, known as the Pathétique on the suggestion of his brother, Modest, was completed at the end of August 1893 and first performed in St Petersburg on 28th October of the same year. Nine days later Tchaikovsky was dead. Tchaikovsky had sketched out a programme for the Sixth Symphony: ‘The whole essence of the plan of the symphony is Life. First movement—all impulsive, confidence, thirst for activity. Must be short. (Finale – Death – result of collapse).’ Although the original plan was modified, the work remains in a sense autobiographical and ominous, in view of the composer’s imminent death. The first movement has a slow introduction, prefiguring the theme of the following Allegro, any conflict resolved in the lyrical second subject, a love theme. There are dynamic extremes in what follows and distinct references to elements of the Russian Orthodox Requiem.

CHAPTER 2

UKRAINE Crimea: Nikitsky Botanic Gardens, near Gurzuf
Odessa: Landscape and Sunset

The Nikitsky Botanical Gardens lie some three miles east of Yalta in the Crimea. The port of Odessa, sheltered to some extent by the Crimean peninsula, owes its origin to the Russian conquests of the eighteenth century.

Music Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, Pathétique – II. Allegro con grazia

Tchaikovsky suggested Love as the subject of the second movement. There is certainly some relaxation of tension in the 5/4 metre of the movement, although a central section again finds death intruding.

CHAPTER 3

UKRAINE Belgorod Castle • Odessa: Monument to the Sailor • Vakulinchuk, Potemkin Steps and Harbour

Belgorod Castle, sited at the White City on the Dnestr, thirty miles or so from Odessa, was built by Stephan II of Moldavia in the fifteenth century. In Odessa itself there are memories of Eisenstein’s great film The Battleship Potemkin, on the subject of the mutiny and revolution of 1905 and the massacre on the steps, themselves a remarkable feature of the city. There is a monument in honour of the sailor Vakulinchuk, commemorating the same event. The steps narrow as they ascend, giving a greater illusion of height. Visible above is the statue of the Duc de Richelieu, governor of the region from 1803 to 1814.

Music Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, Pathétique – III. Allegro molto vivace

Tchaikovsky suggested disappointment as the mood of the third movement. A scherzo, its first subject leads to a march in which triumph is tinged with irony.

CHAPTER 4

RUSSIA St Petersburg: Rossi Street • Summer Garden • Smolny and Nevsky Cemetery • Views of St Petersburg

The name of Karl Ivanovich Rossi is remembered in the street he designed, leading to the Alexandrinskiy (Pushkin) Theatre in Ostrovsky Square. Of Italian origin, Rossi was born in 1775 and died in 1849. He was responsible for a number of fine buildings in St Petersburg, including the Mikhail Palace and the Admiralty and Senate Squares. The Summer Garden was the concept, initially, of Peter the Great, a century before, although its French formality was later altered to suit the fashionable English taste in garden design. Among important sites in the Smolny District of St Petersburg is the Alexander Nevsky Monastery and Tikhvin Cemetery. This last contains the tombs and monuments of a number of important figures in Russian cultural history, including the grave and monument of Tchaikovsky.

 Music Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, Pathétique – IV. Adagio lamentoso – Andante

The fourth movement, in Tchaikovsky’s proposed scheme, ends dying away (also short). In a letter to his nephew Bob Davidov he had suggested that the programme of the symphony was to be a secret, but essentially subjective. In the last movement death is confronted, as the music finally fades away to nothing.

CHAPTER 5

RUSSIA St Petersburg and Moscow

Views are shown of Russia’s two great cities, as seen on a wintry night. St Petersburg appears with its frozen canals and icy streets, while Moscow glows red in the city lights, illuminating Red Square, St Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin.

Music Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin – Waltz

Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin was started in May 1877 and completed at the beginning of February the following year. It was first performed at the Maliy Theatre in Moscow in March 1879. The period of composition was a difficult one in the composer’s life, coinciding as it did with his ill-advised marriage to which Pushkin’s work may have to some extent persuaded him. It treats the love of the young Tatyana for Onegin, which he rejects, the jealousy he arouses in his friend Lensky by his attention to the latter’s beloved Olga, Lensky’s death in a duel and Onegin’s exile. Tatyana marries Prince Gremin. Onegin years later returns and now declares his love for Tatyana, which she reciprocates but at the same time rejects. The drama is pointed by the dance music of the first act, the Waltz, in a scene that provokes the first catastrophe.

CHAPTER 6

RUSSIA St Petersburg: Pushkin Theatre
UKRAINE Odessa: Opera

The theatre now known as the Pushkin Theatre, but formerly the Alexandrinskiy, was the creation of the architect Karl Rossi and stands in Ostrovsky Square, seen at the end of the symmetrical Rossi Street. The views of the façade and auditorium of the Pushkin Drama Theatre lead imperceptibly to the fine Opera and Ballet Theatre in Odessa, with its gilded statues and auditorium ceiling panels showing scenes from Shakespeare.

Music Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin – Polonaise

The Polonaise is heard at the start of the third act of Eugene Onegin, at Prince Gremin’s, where Tatyana is to meet Onegin again.

Keith Anderson

Recordings

Symphony No. 6: Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra cond. Antoni Wit [Naxos 8.550782]
Eugene Onegin: Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra cond. Ondrej Lenárd [Naxos 8.571065]


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