On Tuesday, 27 MAR 2018, I listened to 3 CDs.
1) Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-75): Tr. 1-3, Symphony 6 in B Minor, Op. 54 (1939) (32'48) |Tr. 4-7, Symphony 12 in D Minor, Op. 112 "The Year 1917" (1961) (34'50)--Vasily Petrenko, cond., Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orch. CD 5 of the 11 CD NAXOS set of all the Shostakovich symphonies by these forces. Rec. Liverpool Philharmonic Hall 28-29 JUL 2009 (Tr. 4-7), 23-24 JUN 2010 (Tr. 1-3).
Vasily Petrenko on Sym. 6:
"The Sixth has two big influences. Shostakovich's experiments with the symphonic form came from Mahler. Mussorgsky was the inspiration for the harmonic language, a language both of purity and extremity. His work on Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina
left its mark. The third movement presto is incredibly demanding--perhaps he was testing how far he could go back to the language of the Fourth Symphony at this point."
I checked out the statement about Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, neither of which was completed by Mussorgsky, and which have been revised again and again by various people, often more concerned with political implications than with art. First, Boris. The best and most succinct explanation I could find is here: https://severalfourmany.wordpress.com/2 ... s-godunov/
Boris was a real historical character appointed by Ivan the Terrible as one of a troika of regents for his son Feodor. Feodor was feeble minded and feeble bodied. His is known as "Feodor the Bellringer," because he had a penchant for going around Moscow ringing church bells. In any event, Boris Godunov could have taught Machiavelli a thing or two about ruthlessness; he eventually got to be first, sole regent, and then Tsar in his own right after Feodor's death.
In any event, lots of people took a turn at completing and revising Boris. One of them was Shostakovich, in 1940. From the above article:
Dmitri Shostakovich attempted a version in 1940 to "bring out, as far as possible, its affinity with the Soviet epoch." The public rejected the Soviet approach, finding the orchestration vulgar, strident and more reflective of Shostakovich than of Mussorgsky."
It is worth taking a look in some detail at the historical circumstances that led to Boris Godunov. Ivan the Terrible as born 1530. His father died 1533, and regents were appointed to govern Russia until his majority. He is the classic case of an abused child who became an abuser himself. All through his childhood, people plotted more or less openly around him, and his life was threatened at various points. Regents fought among themselves and the court was one of murderous intrigue. In 1547, Ivan assumed the throne in his own right. He was given to uncontrollable rages, during one of which he killed his eldest son Ivan, heir apparent to the throne, in 1581. He was capable not only of rage, but of deliberate, cold, calculated cruelty. St. Basil's Cathedral was built under his reign, and when completed, he asked the architect if he thought he might eventually, with this experience behind him, he might be able to design an even more beautiful church at some time in the future. When the architect replied that he thought he could, Ivan had his eyes poked out so that he would not be capable of doing so. That was the kind of man Ivan was--but remember that it had all begun with childhood trauma. But, because most of the people he killed were of the aristocracy, he was very popular with most commoners, who felt oppressed by the aristocracy. At one point, frustrated by intrigue at the palace, he actually piled many of his belongings on a sled and went to a villa east of Moscow and sent a message back to Moscow saying he was abdicating the throne. The Moscow bourgeoisie was very upset by this, and begged him to return. He agreed, but only on condition that he be given a free hand in dealing with the boyars, the aristocratic class who had been engaging in plots against him. They agreed, he returned, and an orgy of killings, hangings, and exhibition of heads on spikes that lasted a couple of weeks commenced.
In any event, Ivan died 1584, and Boris Godunov became a member of the troika appointed by Ivan to act as regents for Feodor, who was crowned Czar a few months after his father's death. The senior member of the troika died a few years later, and Feodor died in January, 1598, marking the end of the Rurikid dynasty. Godunov was of Tatar origin and had been a favorite of Ivan's oprichnik, a combination palace guard and secret police. He had strategically advanced his position by marrying a daughter of the head of the oprichnik.
And so, Boris assumed total power. His policy was generally pacific, though, and prudent. Despite the Machiavellian nature of the way he gained power, he ruled wisely, but his reign was relaively short, and he died in 1605, after which Russia descended into the Time of Troubles.
Obviously, this is a life which is a fit subject for grand opera. Despite the general failure of the Shostakovich revision of Boris, the work on the subject profoundly affected his outlook. Now, onto Khovanshchina. First, take a look @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khovanshchina
Apparently, Shostakovich was interested in the opera as early as the late 1930's. But he did not really revise it until 1959. This revision was much more critically accepted and of the many completions and revisions that have been done over the years, it is Shostakovich's version which is now the one generally performed when the opera is mounted.
Now, on to the 12th symphony. I have, until now, always thought of the 12th as Shostakovich's weakest symphony. But Petrenko, in his commentary, forced me to radically revise my view, as he points out important features of this work which I, because of my lack of sophistication in these matters, had been unaware. Petrenko writes,
"The Twelfth is probably the most cryptic of them all, and a big discovery for me. Its a hugely powerful piece, especially if you understand what's behind it. He makes use of the traditional 'People of Russia' from Mussorgsky. It has a three note them representing the people, while Lenin is heard in a two note theme (I subscribe to the view that he denotes a brutal leader or anti-human force in two note themes, and humanity in three note ones). You can hear how Lenin moves the people toward catastrophe in the first movement. He then follows Lenin to Rasliv in Finland, where he refelcts on his stragegy. We hear a theme from Sibelius's Lemminkainen in Tuonela whch deals with the hero's death, where he is cut into pieces and thrown in the river--later his mother pulls out the pieces and only by her tears is he restored again. The message is clear. Its one of the most clever calculations he made: firstly, to quote Sibelius--the necessary people would understand the message--and to put in the revolutionary songs as a cover. You can sense how songs start with a clear intention but are altered and warped.
"In the final part, 'The Dawn of Humanity,' he was raising a question for himself; if the 1905 revolution had been successful [the subject, let us recall, of the 11th symphony], would a parliamentary regime have been established?"
2) Erkki-Sven Tüür (born 16 October 1959): |Tr. 1, Symphony 4 for solo percussion & symphony orchestra "Magma" (2002) (31'06) |Tr. 2, Inquiétude du Fini for male chorus and chamber orchestra (1992); words by Tõnu Õnnepalu (18'29) |Tr. 3, Igavik (Eternity) for male chorus and chamber orchestra (2006); words by Doris Kareva (4'37) |Tr. 4, Rada ja jäljed (The Path and the Traces) for string orchestra (2005) (12'36). Dedications: Tr. 1--to Evelyn Glennie, Tr 3, in memoriam Lennart Meri, Tr. 4, dedicated to Arvo Pärt. Paavo Järvi, cond. (all), Estonain National Symphony Orch. (all), Estonain Philharmonic Chamber Choir (Tr. 2), Male singers from Estonian Philharmonic Camber Chor & Estonian National Male Choir (Tr. 3), Evelyn Glennie, percussionist (Tr. 1). TT: 67'23. Rec. Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn, 7-11 JUN 2006. A Virgin Classics CD.
The following is an edited version of the liner notes.
Tuur's principal composition teacher, Lepo Sumera (1950-2000) was one of a number of Estonian composers who had used the minimalist style derived from "regilaul," the ancient tradition of runic singing, as part of a symphonic synthesis that also took in elements of modernism.
In Tuurs early scores, that minimalist heritage was readily observable--but it was only part of his arsenal: Tuur had always enjoyed contrast, and Inquiétude du Fini, composed in 1992 and thus the earliest work on this disc, displays his fondness for juxtaposing dissimilar musical materials, often diatonic-triadic, rhythmically simple shapes and more complicated textures that are dense, atonal, even serial. Tuur had just received a commision from the Espoo Choral Festival in Finland, and, discussing the matter with his friend, the poet and writer Tõnu Õnnepalu, explained that he was looking for a text that expressed concern with the future of mankind and of the planet more generally, but in an oblique, poetic manner. Õnnepalu responded that he had already written such a text in French--one which, moreover, really needed music to bring it alive. Inquiétude du Fini, scored for mixed chorus, flute, clarinet, bassoon and strings, presents its building materials straightaway: sliding string clusters, dancing minimalist fragments, and the opening 'Qu' est-ce qui e passe?" of the chorus, with the music alternately swirling forward in confident rhythms and coming to rest on little islands of atonal calm.
Tuurs most recent music is concerned with integration, with breaking down rather than underlining contrasts, as his Fourth Symphony, Magma, completed in August 2002, commandingly confirms. The starting point of Magma came in the form of a request from Evelyn Glennie for a percussion concerto. As Tuur turned the idea over in his mind, he realized that he wanted to write a piece where the percussion soloist and the orchestra were much more deeply integrated than is possible in a concerto; the solution became a symphony with a percussion soloist--in front of the orchestra, not tucked away in the back, where the percussion is usually to be found. The title was suggested to Tuur because of the raw energy and inner power displayed by the material and its ability to burst out in different moods; magma can also take an infinite number of shapes and behave in different ways, flowing or turning to stone.
Igavik (Eternity) was written for the 2006 funeral services of Lennart Meri, a friend of Tuur's, who was also the 2nd president of the independent Estonai (1992-2001), and an important filmmaker, linguist, and gerneral leader of the intellectual elite of Estonia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lennart_Meri
Written to a text by Estonian poet Doris Kareva, it is intended as a musical portrait of Meri, who was an Estonian nationalist and yet an anti-isolationist whose books always sought to present Estonia in an international context. Much of his academic work had been in the field of linguistics. This arose out of his exile by the Soviet Union to Siberia during and after WWII, in which he associated with people who spoke other Finno-Ugric languages, and he became interested in the development of this whole family of languages. Talk about making lemonade when life gives you lemons! Tuur uses the rhythms and motifs of Estonia's 3000 year old shamanic tradition at the beginning of the piece, which becomes more sophisticated and textually complex as the music evolves. It is, Tuur says, "a short description of his life, full of struggles and transformations."
"The Path and the Traces," was written in 2005, when Tuur and his wife were vacationing on Crete. Tuur had occasion to attend a church ceremony there and he fell in love with Greek Orthodox plainchant. It inspired him to write this piece, which suggests the huge arches of the church as a framework, with the song which resonated below them, one element static, the other in constant flow. The score bears a dedication to Arvo Part, whose 70th birthday was approaching, and it as performed at a celebratory concert. The title refers to the path one follows in music, in life, and leaving traces with others may follow. Near the end of the piece, we hear fragments, traces, of Part's music, suggesting the Part is a good man in whose footsteps to follow. It is also an homage to the life of Tuur's father, which came to an end as he was writing the piece.
3) CD 6 of the 10 CD SONY set titled "Leopold Stokowski: The Columbia Stereo Recordings." The CD is entitled "Transcriptions by Leopold Stokowski." |Tr. 1, Rimsky-Korsakov(1844-1908) Flight of the Bumblebee (1'22) |Tr. 2, Claude Debussy (1862-1918): Clair de lune (4'48), Tr. 3, Frederic Chopin (1810-49): Mazurka in B Flat Minor, Op. 24/4 (2'37) |Tr. 4, Claude Debussy: La Soiree dans Grenade (6'10) |Tr. 5, Ottokar Novacek (1866-1900): Perpetuum mobile (3'36) |Tr. 6, P.I. Tchaikovsky (1840-93): Humoresque (1'54) |Tr. 7, Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909): Fete-Dieu a Seville (8'31) |Tr. 8, D. Shostakovich (1906-75): Prelude in E Flat Minor, Op. 87/14 (3'13) |Tr. 9, N. Rimsky-Korsakov: Ivan the Terrible: Prelude to Act III (4'08) |Tr. 10, F Chopin: Prelude in D Minor, Op. 28'24 (2'31)--National Philharmonic Orch.--Rec. West Ham Central Mission, London, 12-13, 16 JUL 1976.
Not much to be said here except many of these transcriptions are gauche and tasteless and I love them.