St Petersburg, Mariinsky II

Beethoven. Symphony No 9
Prokofiev. Alexander Nevsky

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Natalya Pavlova (soprano)
Yekaterina Sergeyeva (mezzo-soprano)
Migran Agadzhanyan (tenor)
Mikhail Petrenko (bass)

Sergei Prokofiev
Alexander Nevsky, cantata
Soloist: Yekaterina Sergeyeva (mezzo-soprano)

Mariinsky Chorus and Orchestra
Conductor: Valery Gergiev

Principal Chorus Master: Konstantin Rylov

About the Concert

And through the peace of worldly space,
The ninth wave washed to the very stars
O Thought, reveal yourself! Word, become music,
Strike to the hearts of men, let the world rejoice!
Nikolai Zabolotsky. Beethoven

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony ranks alongside such great works of art as Homer’s poems, Dante’s La divina commedia, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Goethe’s Faust and Bach’s High Mass... It expressed the aims of its age in an utterly perfect manner, and at the same time it gave a voice to human ideals to which we remain faithful to this very day. It concluded Beethoven the symphonist’s artistic path and it also paved the way for the future.
By including poetic verse in the symphony, Beethoven took an incredibly innovative step which initially staggered his contemporaries. For the composer himself, the writing of the Ninth Symphony was the result of many years’ work in an attempt to find a musical embodiment for Schiller’s Ode an die Freude.
For the first time, Beethoven took a text in order to express the philosophical concept of a symphony. But the most important thing, even starting with Beethoven himself, is that the symphony – as subtly expressed by German music historian Paul Bekker – performs the role of a “secular mass” that brings concert hall audiences together in the same way that a Sunday mass brings parishioners together at church. And it is not by chance that Beethoven’s brilliant rendering of Schiller’s Ode an die Freude is the official anthem of the European Union, a united Europe. It is not by chance that it is performed everywhere as an apotheosis of freedom and fraternity of all mankind. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was first performed on 7 May 1824 in Vienna under the baton of the composer. Iosif Raiskin

The cantata Alexander Nevsky was composed on the basis of music for the eponymous film by Sergei Eisenstein which was released in 1938. The exceptional success that accompanied the film, comparable to that of Chapaev, allowed Prokofiev to create a work independent from the film music and take it to the stage of the concert hall, changing almost nothing in it apart from several details of the orchestration.
The “picture-like” and “visible” nature of the images is one of the typical features of Prokofiev’s music in general and of this work in particular. It is as if the audience “sees” what is happening onstage, even if behind the musical impressions there is no sense of watching a cinema film. In the structure of the cantata itself one can detect features of a symphonic poem in which the first movement is a prologue and the second and third are an exposition that embodies two opposing forces: that of the Russian heroes (represented by Alexander) and that of the Order of Livonian Knights. The fourth and fifth movements form a section in which the fifth movement – the battle scene on Lake Chudskoe – is the undoubted peak and central piece of the cantata as a whole. The sixth movement is an episode of lament for fallen warriors, the only solo section (for mezzo-soprano) in the entire work. And lastly there is the seventh movement – the finale, a reprise, the celebration and triumph of the Russian warriors who are victorious. Pavel Velikanov

Age category 6+

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