Liadov, Britten and Shostakovich

This concert was played:

  1. The Enchanted Lake
  2. Serenade for tenor, horn and strings
  3. Symphony No. 8
  1. Nicholas Collon conductor
  2. Andrew Staples tenor
  3. Hongpark Kim horn

A concert which guides you to the depths of the human soul.

You can almost see the reflection of the stars in The Enchanted Lake as Anatoly Lyadov’s mysterious tone poem sets the mood for a concert which guides you to the depths of the human soul. Both Britten’s Serenade and Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 8 were composed in 1943, when the world seemed at its darkest. Britten chose texts with a nocturnal theme, and Shostakovich sought to express the tragedy and emptiness which followed the battle of Stalingrad. Michael Collins guides us through the night, with support from tenor Andrew Staples and horn soloist Hongpark Kim.

How picturesque it seems, how clear, the many stars which hang suspended over the mysteries of the deep. First and foremost, though; no prayers or lamentations; only nature cold, evil; an extraordinary adventure. You feel the shift in colours, chiaroscuro, the malleable silence and seeming immobility, wrote Anatoly Lyadov (1855−1914) enthusiastically about the tone poem The Enchanted Lake. Lyadov didn’t grow to be as famous as his Russian colleagues, but here he demonstrates his abilities as an orchestrator and musical storyteller. The work was first performed in St. Petersburg in 1909.

Like many other 20th century composers, Benjamin Britten (1913−1976) also felt keenly the gruesomeness of the world war. He left for America in 1939, but returned to England in 1942, and there experienced horrors which moved him to write his famous War Requiem. The nocturnal mood is not as depressive and angst-ridden in Serenade for tenor, horn and strings, but rather more thoughtful and calm. Britten has chosen a variety of very different texts, but all of them pivot around the theme of night, and are penned by British writers in a period spanning 400 years. Although Britten didn’t consider it an important work, it was well received by critics at its world premiere in 1943, and remains one of the composer’s masterpieces.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906−1975) had rather a different experience with his Symphony No. 8, which was met with an icy reception by both critics and the Soviet ruling elite at its first performance in Leningrad in 1943. Shostakovich’s previous symphony, his seventh, had grown to be extremely popular both in the Soviet Union and in the West as a symbol of battle and triumph in war. Expectations were therefore running high when Shostakovich wrote a new war symphony, especially considering that Stalin had just recently defeated Hitler in the battle of Stalingrad in the same year.

For this reason, many were shocked when Shostakovich unveiled his darkest and most tragic of symphonies. The opening is similar to his Symphony No. 5, with the same sense of unsettled conflict, but the expected triumph of the finale (which also happens to be ambivalent in the fifth symphony) is replaced with silence. The symphony does make the transition from darkness to light, but there is no triumphal march or apotheosis. The symphony concludes with a quiet prayer for peace, while evoking a chilling emptiness following the violence of the earlier movements − in particular the expression of gruesome terror, pain and suffering of the penultimate movement. It was doubtful that Shostakovich viewed the battle of Stalingrad as a one-sided triumph. Not only did it grant Stalin even greater power, but the loss of human life underway had been colossal.

I feel everlasting pain for those who were killed by Hitler, but I dont feel any less pain for those who were ordered killed by Stalin. I suffer with all those who were tortured, shot or starved to death

(In photo: Nicholas Collon, Photo: Jim Hinson; Text: Thomas Erma Møller; Translation: Sarah Osa)

Tickets

  • Adult: 100 - 470 NOK
  • Senior: 100 - 375 NOK
  • Student: 100 - 235 NOK
  • Child: 100 NOK

The concert is included in the following subscriptions: