As a youngster I used to hate “classical music” partly because it was always around – in fact, this hate was probably carefully cultivated by the Soviet state, if only for the purposes of torturing the masses with a 24-hour broadcasts of orchestral music as a way of mourning the leader’s death. There was a sequence of sudden departures of heads of states after Brezhnev died – all I remember is “classical music” on TV all day… But through what I’ve referred to as “coercion of taste” elsewhere I’ve acquired a rather exciting (if burdensome in the absence of cultural stimulation) addiction to music of such Russian giants as Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Schnittke, Gubaidulina, and even Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. Thus I am very excited – or maybe it’s just caffeine – to see that my provincial orchestra is presenting a following program this afternoon:
Britten (“Four Sea Interludes” from Peter Grimes)
Stravinsky (The Rite of Spring)
I know that those of you who are privileged to inhabit the centers of culture will be slightly amused at this very traditional program, but trust me for this provincial town it is way out there in the twentieth century! My only concern is that the orchestra, more accustomed to tunes that put old ladies to sleep, might mess up the Scherzo and thus ruin my enjoyment of the Violin Concerto, thus I am dedicating this morning “study time” to indoctrinating myself with a superior version of BBC Orchestra and Dmitry Sitkovetsky. There isn’t one on YouTube, so here’s a good one as well (the best part of the movement is about 2:45 in the video below):
Shostakovich: The Original Harry Potter!
Update I: The concert turned out to be a good experience despite several major issues: I thought orchestra was a bit lost and messy in the middle of “Four Sea Interludes” – actually precisely where things got technical, but generally there was not major mishaps; Violin Concerto was somewhat disappointing because Niki and I could not hear the violin very well and we had good sits (I thought), so it was still a great piece but I think I mostly supplied the violin part from memory, not from an actual performance; Rite of Spring was executed well, even if somewhat unimaginatively…
Update II: Check out this archival footage of young Dmitri (1934? – 28 year old) playing the end of this First Piano Concerto: