Mariinsky Label Launched in May 2009.

This is pretty exciting, although there are only two recordings available at this point (one already out in May, another coming out in June) – you can hear some samples on the label’s website, they are quite good. Of course, it’s great to see another recording of Shostakovich’s The Nose out there, it’s a great little opera. It seems that you can buy The Nose recording on iTunes or through London Symphony Orchestra webstore.  Or you can get in on – I have an old recording of The Nose with Rozhedsvenski which I like a lot, I might as well get this one too.

I found this Finale on YouTube (just the audio) – enjoy!:

Continue reading

The Met To Do Shostakovich’s Nose in 2009-2010

Shostakovich’s Nose is a rather interesting piece of music / opera. It’s rarely performed and there are not too many recordings of it. It’s also quite a listen even for crusty Shostakovich fans, I think (see some videos below).

Production is by South African artist William Kentridge – see Kentridge’s images for The Nose here. This could be a great reason for a trip to NYC.

Conductors:  Valery Gergiev / Pavel Smelkov
Police Inspector:  Andrei Popov
The Nose:  Gordon Gietz
Kovalyov:  Paulo Szot

The premiere will be on 5 March 2010 with performances on 11, 13, 18, 23, &
25 March

Here’s the info from The Met’s site: Continue reading

A Journey of Dmitry Shostakovich (2008)

You can watch the whole documentary about Shostakovich here

A Journey of Dmitry Shostakovich
2008 | 67 min.  Dmitry Shostakovich, the greatest composer of the 20th century, remains one of its biggest mysteries. The nine chapters of the film are framed by nine days of the last round-trip journey of the composer’s life: a trip on a Soviet ocean liner to the United States. The film is narrated primarily in words of Shostakovich’s letters and diaries, which sharply contrast with the propaganda movies shown on board the ship, as the twentieth century itself weaves myth and reality. Never-before-seen archival fragments of the composer’s life – newsreel footage, photographs, letters, and personal memoirs – provide a unique perspective on issues of the artist versus the state, and truth versus survival. In contrasting official truth with personal truth, the film offers insight into the mystery of how Shostakovich was able to penetrate, through his music, the ironclad curtain and deeply affect Western audiences. Shostakovich’s music, full of dark sarcasm and glory, lyricism and sorrow, laughter and melancholy, plays the leading part throughout the film.

Gergiev in Tskhinvali

A story from today’s Independent

Many have lost relatives, some no longer have homes, but they all put on their best evening dress and flocked to Tskhinvali’s central square to see one of the world’s most famous conductors lead an emotional concert in support of his people – and Russian military action.


Valery Gergiev has given some extraordinary concerts in his time, but last night he conducted perhaps the most unusual and emotional concert of his career.

As dusk fell, the sounds of Dmitry Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony rang out, less than two weeks after the capital of Georgia’s breakaway territory of South Ossetia saw fierce fighting between Russian and Georgian troops.

Point of Interest: Mieczyslaw Weinberg (Moishei Vainberg / Моисей Вайнберг)

This post is inspired by a couple of highway signs that I always see – they proudly state: “Point of Interest,” but every time I tried to look around and see what that “point” is and what kind of “interest” I should have in it, I cannot see anything resembling any kind of an interesting object – I suppose maybe it’s my Russian upbringing and profound respect that I have for signs and slogan: if the sign says “Stop!” I usually stop, if it says “Glory to the Communist Party” I am nodding agreeably and try to look like I really mean it…

Today’s “Point of Interest” is of musical nature: recently I became interested in a Polish-Russian composer Moisei (sometimes Moishei) Vainberg, or Mieczyslaw Weinberg (Polish name) – there is a rather annoying confusion about the name – Vainberg was born in Warsaw and his Polish name is Weinberg, but since he spent most of his life in Russia and become a Russian composer as far as a cultural identification is concerned, his Russian name is Вайнберг (transliterated as Vainberg). Weinberg/Vainberg was from a Jewish family and his Jewish name was Moishei (Моисей) or Moses, but his Polish name was Mieczyslaw (Мечислав) – in any case, one can find his recordings under both last names. I have his music for a ballet The Golden Key (Op. 55) and Symphonies 7 and 12, I find them to be of excellent quality, even if some speak of Vainberg as Shostakovich-Lite. Continue reading

Provincial Ecstacy: Mikhail Anticipates Enjoyment (Updated)

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: Continue reading

Shostakovich: Odna (Alone) Full Score Out on Naxos!

Shostakovich wrote music for this 1931 film and the complete recording is finally available from NAXOS – out in Europe (buy it here) now and will be out in the US on 1/29 (pre-order it here)!

From The Times Review:  

Shostakovich fanciers should snap up this first complete recording of his often extraordinary score for the 1931 film Alone ( Odna), the story of a Leningrad teacher getting her mettle tested in a posting to miserable Siberia. Into the pot Shostakovich stirs circus marches, barrel-organ clichés, throat-singing, a wailing theremin and woodwinds at the extremities. Russian singers and Frankfurt’s radio orchestra lap up Fitz-Gerald’s reconstruction; a job well done all round. Continue reading

Early Weekend Perversity: Opera Edition.

So allow me to share some rather quick observations about my early weekend, which, since I am a lazy bastard, started very early this Friday – I knew this was going to be a strange one when I saw that someone came to our page by doing a search “Jeff Scholes 2007” – now for those who know who Mr. Jeff Scholes is this should be enough of a shock to fill many weekend afternoons of frightened shivering and utter confusion – I suppose there exists out there a new “2007” version. 

 So I got the new 2006 production of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk directed by Martin Kusej and Nikolaus Lehnhoff at  De Nederlandse Opera which is available on Netflix and Amazon.   Simply judging by the photo on the cover of this 2 DVD version (includes an hour long documentary about the production) one can already tell that this is a rather brave and very perverse version of the classic which, although controversial, did not explicitly make all the points that Kusej-Lehnhoff version makes: including the implication that Sergei rapes Katerina, that Katerina is a virgin after years of marriage to Zinoviy who, in turn, looks rather weak, and that Boris Timofeyevich is clearly intending on seducing his daughter-in-law and only her affair with Sergei prevents him from proceeding with the plan – one cannot help but wonder how this opera was ever permitted on stage before it’s inevitable condemnation and banishment from “pure” Soviet opera stage in 1936.

As is well-known, young Dimitri’s second opera has first premiered on January 22nd of 1934 at Leningrad Maliy Theater – it was well received and was only “condemned” in 1936 after the great Georgian himself found it vulgar and, of course, anything the fearless leader did not like was against the very essence of the progressive Soviet operatic culture – only in 1960s the opera was revived under a new name – Katerina Izmailova – and with some changes.  This is how Tim Ashley (of The Guardian) eloquently describes the event of the opera’s unfortunate banishment. Continue reading