St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Haydn. Beethoven. Musorgsky. Wagner
Violinist and conductor: Artist of the Month Igor Gruppman

Joseph Haydn. Symphony No 45, Farewell
Ludwig van Beethoven. Romance for Violin and Orchestra
Modest Musorgsky. Vocal cycle Songs and Dances of Death
Soloist: Yevgeny Nikitin (bass baritone)
Richard Wagner. Introduction and scene of Isolde’s death from the opera Tristan und Isolde

Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra

Joseph Haydn. Symphony No 45, Farewell
The “Farewell” Symphony is one of the most famous works by the Viennese maestro. The unusual nature of this music gave birth to myriad legends regarding the circumstances of its creation while the composer was still living. In 1772, Haydn, at the time in the service of the Hungarian Prince Eszterházy, was commissioned to compose a new symphony: the prince was a great music lover, and almost always there would be some kind of concert at one of his homes. The novelty of the work caught the imagination of Eszterházy and his guests from the very first bars with its mournful minor key and the dramatically expressive theme accompanied by the anxiously pulsing chords. But the main surprise for listeners comes at the end: after the traditional conclusion in the fourth movement, there comes an additional fifth, written by the composer with a specific and original ain. During the performance, the musicians in turn extinguished the candles on the music stands then left, taking with them their instruments – and the symphony came to a conclusion with just two violins, one of them played by Haydn himself. According to a report by the composer’s friend and first biographer Georg August Grisinger, thus highly unexpected conclusion to the work was intended as a kind of hint to Eszterházy: that day, the Prince was at his summer residence, and among the musicians there were several newlyweds who were keen to return to their spouses who had remained in the city. Grisinger noted that Eszterházy was just as witty as his court composer – when the musicians departed, he said “Well then, as everyone has gone, we too must leave this castle.” And the next day he gave the order to return to town.

Richard Wagner. Introduction and scene of Isolde’s death from the opera Tristan und Isolde
The idea of Wagner’s most magnificent musical drama was connected with the wish to give love a definition, to present an all encompassing analysis of the phenomenon. “Although in life I have not tasted true loving happiness, I wish to raise a monument to this most glorious of reveries,” the German maestro wrote. The source of Wagner’s “drama of emotions” was a mediaeval legend about a knight and a beautiful lady, destined by fate to be the wife of another. The composer transformed the story, based on a classic love triangle, into a “truly metaphysical opus”. The refined, tense and ecstatic music matches to absolute perfection the world of languishing and unquenched passions that comprise the work’s emotional atmosphere. The finest episodes of Tristan are the orchestral introduction and the final scene of Isolde’s death. Each of these large sections forms an arch that frames the work and which augment one another in terms of music – this is why they are often performed together, without interruption, as one concert piece. The combination of the themes of love, concentrated in the introduction, and of Isolde’s death in the final scene express the fundamental idea running throughout Tristan: love and death as two indivisible sides of one and the same phenomenon.
Nadezhda Kulygina 


Modest Musorgsky. Vocal cycle Songs and Dances of Death
Modest Petrovich Musorgsky’s vocal cycle Songs and Dances of Death (1875–1877) is one of the most unusual incarnations of a subject familiar to world culture since the Middle Ages. Franz Liszt’s acclaimed Danse macabre, too, exerted an influence on the idea for the work, which had come initially from Vladimir Vasilievich Stasov, the composer’s friend and an art critic. Together with the poet Arseny Arkadyevich Golenishchev-Kutuzov, Musorgsky created an original composition from four independent sections unified by a common image. In the Lullaby there is Death the Comforter; but already by the end of the next number, Serenade, the mask of suffering has been torn away and Death’s victorious cry (“You are mine!”) reveals its true face. In the finale, the image of death is placed on a truly universal scale. The composer changed the title The Triumph of Death given by Golenishchev-Kutuzov to The Field-Marshal, creating a musical image of Death on a triumphant, terrifying march. Under the impression of the first performance of The Field-Marshal, Musorgsky wrote to the poet: “Some kind of riveting love, some kind of elusive, deathly love can be heard! It is… death, coldly and passionately in love with death, enjoying death.”
In 1962, Dmitry Dmitrievich Shostakovich created an orchestral version of Songs and Dances of Death with which he was delighted, entitling it “a work of arch-genius”. He dedicated it to Galina Pavlovna Vishnevskaya, the first performer of the orchestral version of the cycle (the premiere took place on 12 November 1962 in Gorki, conducted by Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich).
Vladimir Goryachikh


Age category 6+

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