St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Shostakovich. Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky. Jeu de cartes. Ballet in three hands

Dmitry Shostakovich. Piano Concerto No 1 and No 2

Igor Stravinsky. The cantata Le Roi des étoiles

Chorus and Symphony Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre
Principal Chorus Master: Andrei Petrenko

Matsuev, winner of the 1998 Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, has much in common with Vladimir Horowitz: the flaring virtuosity, the range of sonority going from a golden whisper to a mighty roar. But Matsuev seems to command equal reserves of intelligent musicianship and fiery showmanship.
Chicago Tribune


His power: limitless. His octave and scale technique: without comparison. His touch: highly differentiated. Nobody plays quicker, bolder, more transparent. Betimes one has the impression; a five-armed juggler is juggling five barbells of 50 kilo each, as though they were paper balls. Similarly the young Horowitz must have sounded.
Westdeutsche Zeitung


Dmitry Shostakovich
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35 (1933)

After the immense score of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk – “an opera that makes an era” (the words of Samuil Samosud, who conducted the MALEGOT premiere) – Shostakovich “recalled” that he was a pianist who had hardly performed since the start of his career. Two weeks after completing the opera he conceived – one after the other – two adjacent works: Twenty-four Preludes, Op. 34, and the Concerto, Op. 35. Along with the quickly-written Cello and Piano Sonata, Op. 40, they were the favourite pieces in Shostakovich’s piano repertoire in the mid 30s, and he performed them in towns and cities throughout the USSR.
The “line of dehumanised music” that drew the attention of Boris Asafiev in Shostakovich’s opera found its continuation in the Concerto. It turned out that the composer’s lyricism was wrongfully rejected (as was the case with the young Sergei Prokofiev in his time). In the slow elegy Shostakovich (following in Tchaikovsky’s footsteps) introduces a waltz, or rather the Boston Waltz, its contemporary incarnation, into the “pearl of creation”. But, as if ashamed of openly expressing his emotions – a feature typical of bashful youth – the composer “hides” the lyricism in the folds of anti-romantic clothing. In the first section the Beethoven-like, stern main theme is set off by a “light genre”, and in the finale the bubbling humour of quotations from Hayden’s piano sonata and Beethoven’s rondo “Rage over a lost Groschen” is combined with songs from Odessa and cabaret motifs.

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, Op. 102 (1957)
The composer dedicated his Piano Concerto No. 2 (1957) – a brief intermezzo between the autobiographical Tenth and programme Eleventh Symphonies – to his son Maxim Shostakovich, then a pupil at the Central School of Music of the Moscow Conservatoire. The world of youth is reflected in the light joie de vivre of the music in the concerto. The slow section of the concerto, full of poetic, meditatively dreamy lyricism, is framed by the energetic outer sections, imbued with a feel of festive merriment. The concerto was acclaimed both at concert performances and as a teaching instrument.
Iosif Raiskin


Igor Stravinsky
Le Roi des étoiles (1912)

The cantata Le Roi des étoiles for male chorus and orchestra, written at the same time as three famous “Russian” ballets – The Firebird, Pétrouchka and Le Sacre du printemps – is one of Stravinsky’s most enigmatic and rarely performed works.
For his literary source, the composer used the symbolist poem The King of the Stars by Konstantin Balmont, which had drawn him with the particular nature of its rhythm and the capriciousness of its sonority. Bleak images of the Apocalypse were embodied by Balmont in a series of expressive comparisons and metaphors. Stravinsky conveyed an image of “eternity” by using rhythmical, triumphal choral scansion. Essentially avoiding the use of the bass instrument section, the composer achieved the effect of sound “evaporating in the air”. In the middle section of the work, set to Christ’s words, the orchestration condenses and creates the impression of a powerful voice descending “from on high”.
The cantata Le Roi des étoiles, dedicated to Claude Debussy whom Stravinsky met in Paris in 1910, was to prove a unique “tribute” to the master of French musical impressionism.
Nadezhda Kulygina

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