Tag Archive: Tchaikovsky

The Nutcracker, A Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory Performance Project

This version of the beloved holiday classic, The Nutcracker, is less a focus on technical brilliance and more a charming family event with a host of young (and very young dancers). I went with two teenage girls, both veterans of other performances including the iconic New York City Ballet version. We agreed that the dancers worked hard and danced their little hearts out and that a huge amount of time and effort, to say nothing of a lot of rehearsals, went into the performance.

Benjamin Grosvenor Plays Ravel with MTT and the San Francisco Symphony. Romeo and Juliet from Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev and a Dash of Stravinsky

Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor

Indian summer is a favorite time of year in San Francisco. The city’s deceptively cutting winds give way to something approaching balminess. And one gears up, if not for romance, then surely for a new Symphony season to warm the heart, excite the pulse and remind one that art is the password to beauty’s permanence. I’ve often commented about the happy spirit of our symphony…and do so again. There exist surly orchestras, whose players sit looking for all the world as though they’d gladly wring the conductor’s neck as play for him. (These tend to be Russian!) But before I’m accused of national prejudices, I should point out, as an old New Yorker, that the New York Philharmonic is quite capable of gathering onstage looking as though they’d like to kill each other! Perhaps it is Panglossian naïveté to think comity reigns here, but it certainly seemed so on Saturday.

James Conlon leads the San Francisco Symphony in a little “Entartete Musik”

Composer Erwin Schulhoff

If nothing else had been performed this week at the San Francisco Symphony, the Scherzo from Erwin Schulhoff’s Fifth Symphony would have been worth the ticket. James Conlon has become an authority in recent years on the subject of “Entartete Musik,” which is to say, music forbidden performance by the Nazis. And he had the daring to program just what he thought the audience would enjoy. I made a point after the concert of listening to several complete symphonies by Schulhoff and concluded Conlon was right to include just the Scherzo from the Fifth Symphony in his program, at least this time around. The music was both remarkably exciting (about which more in a moment), not too long and utterly hilarious, due to the brilliant and edgy talk Conlon gave from the podium before performing it.

The Great Composers?

Tchaikovsky's Inspiration According to Walt Disney

I became a music teacher more or less by accident. After graduating from Cambridge University in 1956, I went to work as an engineer in the Guided Weapons Department at Bristol Aircraft—my sons still like to refer to me as a rocket scientist. Finding that the life of a rocket scientist is extremely dull, I went back to Cambridge, did my post-graduate work in education and took a job at the Crypt School, Gloucester, preparing students for university entrance and scholarship exams. I enjoyed my work at the Crypt, but after six years I was ready for something else, and I moved to the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City, supposedly as a teacher of mathematics and physics.

Balanchine’s Allegro Brilliante and Stravinsky Violin Concerto and Robbins’ Cage and Andantino at the New York City Ballet

The style of the New York City Ballet is almost tree-like, branching and spreading in a floral rather than faunal manner, achieving a harmonious whole that is not purely rational or classical or athletic or anything covered by a single label. Their pure and natural variety of grace certainly suits Balanchine’s choreography, bringing out its best qualities. Allegro Brilliante, as the title might suggest, opens with style and grace, there is a certain abstraction with this stylish dancing before a plain blue screen and following no definite plot or action. We have Tchaikovsky’s music speaking to us very eloquently through Clotilde Otranto’s baton and Elaine Chelton’s fingers, music with fairly strong and definite, but not heavy, emotions. The costumes, the women’s light dresses in gentle hues and secondary colors and the men’s loose sleeves and waistcoats, do not place them absolutely as characters, but are enough to complement simply the movements. Yet there is a sense of a social entity, of mute social forces at work, drowned out by the music perhaps, and even a suggestion of court in the group scenes in their almost 17th Century style of abstraction, as they blur the lines slightly between social and theatrical dancing; the interactions of the dancers on stage are absorbing and interesting, brought across by their dramatic sense, their sense of theatre. The dancing doesn’t borrow openly from any real historical form but somehow the push and pull of social dancing is suggested. The piece at least gives the feeling of being indoors. Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette dancing the leads give a particularly strong sense of conversation in their dancing together in the pas de deux and also amongst the larger group. Nothing happens, the ballet remains abstract, yet it develops in an arc into something very moving and ineffable beyond the music, as if the entire piece, developed into a whole wishes to give something to you, and the performance succeeded in this and the lack of downrightness was very refreshing.

Rudolf Buchbinder plays the Brahms Second Piano Concerto with the New York Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert; Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique”

Rudolf Buchbinder

New York Philharmonic Avery Fisher Hall February 16, 2013 Alan Gilbert, conductor Rudolf Buchbinder, piano Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83 Tchaikovsky – Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique” Imagine a kinder, gentler nineteenth century, one not…
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The Amazing Daniil Trifonov with The Russian National Orchestra

One of the joys with a visiting orchestra is to experience new sonorities—to be swept richly downward, perhaps, to unanticipated string depths—to hear brass playing grainier or more golden than you thought possible in the hall—or wind passages lighter and more personal than you might have dreamed. More importantly, you come to sense the ensemble’s psychology, as individual in its way as the conductor’s. Listen to an orchestra like the Mariinsky, and you experience shivers of delight. How Russian it seems!

The Sydney Symphony Becomes Opera Impresario with a Memorable Queen of Spades by Tchaikovsky in Concert

Tchaikovsky wrote Queen of Spades, in 1890, and one other opera, Iolanta, in 1891, near the end of his life after having promised never to write another opera because of the unpopularity of The Sorceress (1887). For theatre, these were very fertile years for Tchaikovsky. The Mariinksy first performed Sleeping Beauty in 1890 and Nutcracker in 1892. He wrote Queen of Spades at a Mozartean rate in Florence where it is said he composed the music faster than his brother Modest wrote and sent the libretto scene by scene. Perhaps living in Florence gave him enough distance from the darker, more repellent aspects of the story to avoid getting run down by it, but anyhow it seems a strange subject for him to choose, especially surprising to hear the incredibly lyrical music he created for it. The antihero Hermann is repellent, but for some of the beautiful music Tchaikovsky gave him, yet even so Hermann’s are not as beautiful as Don Giovanni’s arias (and duets), but I don’t believe Tchaikovsky thought or intended his music to be as beautiful as Mozart’s.

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