St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Rachmaninoff. Shostakovich

Marking one century since the world premiere of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s poem The Bells

The programme includes:
Dmitry Shostakovich
Symphony No 6 in B Minor, Op. 54

Sergei Rachmaninoff
The Bells, poem for chorus, soloists and orchestra, Op. 35

Soloists: Olga Trifonova (soprano), Fyodor Ataskevich (tenor), Alexei Markov (baritone)

Mariinsky Chorus and Orchestra
Principal Chorus Master: Andrei Petrenko
Conductor: Valery Gergiev

The poem The Bells for mixed chorus, three soloists (soprano, tenor and baritone) and orchestra was completed by Rachmaninoff in 1913. Interestingly, Rachmaninoff had initially planned to compose a symphony, but it so happened that at the time he received an anonymous letter with a request to read Balmont’s translation of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem which was attached to the letter and which, the letter stated, was eminently suitable for music and should be of interest to the composer. The name of the letter’s author only became known after Rachmaninoff’s death – it was the cellist Mikhail Bukinik’s student Maria Danilova.
The content of the poem did, in fact, immediately rouse Rachmaninoff’s interest. The Bells is reminiscent of a symphony in terms of structure (it is a four-part cycle), although it is closer to a cantata. The entire work, from the first movement to the last, is an irrepressible advance towards catastrophe, from light towards darkness. Each of the four movements creates a scene of human life, from birth to death, and in each the chime of the bells reigns supreme.
The poem The Bells bears the composer’s dedication “To my friend Willem Mengelberg and his Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam.”
Age category 6+

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