Notes on the Program from Artistic Director
Every RCCNY concert program has unique features that combine together to create a special kind of beauty and originality, like a spring bouquet of flowers. In today¡¯s program, we combine several unique compositions: some famous, some forgotten, some entirely new.
A new side of an old favorite. Many of you in the audience will be familiar with Pyotr Tchaikovsky¡¯s music. However, the two works you will hear today are not his most well known. They remind us yet again of the extraordinary richness of the composer¡¯s inner world. These works reflect a duality in Tchaikovsky¡¯s nature that permeates his musical genius¡ªnamely, the realms of the human and the spiritual. Awestruck spirituality is colored and deepened by human emotion in ¡°Let My Prayer Arise,¡± while human striving for joy reaches out and extends itself to an almost religious ecstasy in the cantata ¡°Nature and Love.¡±
The heart can speak without words. Compassion and sympathy create music especially close to a human heart. One simply cannot help hearing and feeling the parallels between Yuri Yukechev¡¯s ¡°Chant¡± and the famous ¡°Adagio¡± by Samuel Barber, as both of these works seem to come from the same source¡ªthe human heart.
Music and poetry. Sarah Dawson¡¯s
choral cycle, ¡°Possibility,¡± reminds me of an exquisite bouquet of flowers. The
composition features an ingenious and elegant interplay of colors. She applies
a subtle sense of humor and uses an authentic musical language to create a
sense of improvisation. The lyrics bring the musical phrases to life, and in
turn the music brings new expression to the language.
In the composer¡¯s own words: ¡°As I read through some poems, I could feel whether I could write music to them or not, and that¡¯s how I decided whether I was interested or not. In a sense, these particular poems sang to me, so I fleshed out the song. And I¡¯m definitely trying to illuminate the text as I¡¯m writing¡ªI¡¯m sort of word painting.¡±
A centennial celebration. We honor the 100th anniversary of Shostakovich¡¯s birth by performing his ¡°Antiformalist Rayok,¡± a rare example of political satire in music. It was written in the Soviet Union sometime during the 1940s to 1960s, which tells us about the composer¡¯s great courage. He created this work as a pointed response to the humiliation he personally suffered from the country¡¯s political and ideological leader: not only one¡¯s well-being, but literally one¡¯s life, was in constant danger for many artists. Shostakovich satirizes the government for using all possible means to create a narrow, closed ¡°reality,¡± where everything¡ªincluding art¡ªexists to please the tasteless sentimentality of the ruling elite.
¡°Antiformalist Rayok¡± depicts a meeting of socialist cultural workers (portrayed by the chorus), who worship their leaders as idols, with hysterical devotion. The text was written by the composer himself; in fact, he uses actual quotes from speeches of communist leaders. The musical genres in this short opera are well known in Russia, which adds to the humor and tells the native listener where each character comes from.
The crowd exalts first at the appearance of the main leader, Comrade Numberone, who is easily recognizable as Joseph Stalin himself. The chorus¡¯s exclamation of ¡°Glory! Glory!¡± dynamically transforms itself into the horrible screaming curse, ¡°Jail them! Jail them! We¡¯ll put them all into camps.¡± This moment depicts the mindless hate of the meeting participants, as they call for the destruction of composers whose music was labeled ¡°anti-people¡± or ¡°formalistic.¡± The Russian word rayok means ¡°little paradise,¡± so Shostakovich gave his composition the sardonic title, ¡°Antiformalist Rayok.¡±
During the appearance of the second leader, Comrade Numbertwo, the composer interprets laughter in a very special way. He makes it artificial and hypocritical, allowing us to laugh at the bootlicking and extreme complaisance of the crowd that delights in every single joke the leader makes, no matter how trivial or stupid.
Comrade Numberthree¡¯s speech is taken from an actual speech Shostakovich attended. The speaker holds up three classical composers as models to be followed: Glinka, Tchaikovsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov. Unfortunately, the speaker wasn¡¯t familiar enough with his subject matter, so he accented the wrong syllable in the third composer¡¯s name: Rimsky-Kor-SA-kov.
In the final scene, Shostakovich parodies the call of the ideological leaders for collective vigilance by using the popular cancan ¡°Look here, look there!¡± (for the state¡¯s enemies). As a result, the work ends on a note of bright caricature.