Slavic Mysteries

This concert was played:

  1. The Noonday Witch
  2. Violin Concerto No. 2
  3. Symphonic Dances
  1. Karina Canellakis conductor
  2. Nikolaj Znaider violin

Karina Canellakis conducts music by Dvořák, Szymanowski and Rachmaninoff.

Acclaimed violinist Nikolaj Znaider will be in Oslo to perform Szymanowski's mysterious and enigmatic, yet melodious, vibrant and beautiful Violin Concerto No. 2. We'll also meet the sinister and capricious Noonday Witch, here evoked through Dvořák's magical music. Rachmaninov's perhaps lesser known Symphonic Dances glows with energy, and adds to the mood of mystery in this programme. There are no mysteries surrounding conductor Karina Canellakis' talents, however: she has grown to be well-known for her intense, captivating interpretations.

If you don't behave, the Noon Day Witch will come and get you”, says the mother admonishingly to her child in Karel Jaromir Erben's poem. The gruesome figure appears in many Slavic myths, cracking down on all forms of disobedience. In Antonín Dvořák's (18411904) symphonic poem based on Erben's text, the mood suddenly changes from the idyll of the introduction when the shadows of the Noonday Witch come creeping in the form of hushed strings and a mysterious bass clarinet. When the mother in the poem discovers that her threats have become real, an intense chase of life and death ensues, which ends in tragedy when the father comes home and finds his child dead. Noonday Witch was first performed in 1896 and is considered to be one of Dvořák's most imaginative and colourful compositions.

Fantasies and colour continue to dominate in Karel Szymanowski's (18821937) unique form of musical modernism. Szymanowski combined impulses from German Late-Romanticism, Debussy's colourful Impressionism, and Scriabin's daring atonality to develop an entirely new style, often characterised by lyrical melodies in an exceptionally harmonic landscape. From the rocking and indefinable opening, his second violin concerto develops into a brilliant work with great melodic arcs, sparking bursts of energy, and triumphant climaxes. From time to time, we might also discern Szymanowski's interest in folk music between the lines. It's a challenge to name a clear model for the work, but Bartók's music might be the closest. Violin Concerto No. 2 was written for Pawel Kochanski, who performed the world premiere in Warsaw in 1933.

Sergei Rachmaninov (18731943) might have had at least as strong nostalgic feelings for his homeland as Szymanowski did for Poland. He had fled the Russian revolution in 1917, and had eventually settled in the US. In his final composition, Symphonic Dances, he allowed himself to reminisce over his cultural roots, where the heritage of Rimsky-Korsakov, and the memories of the Russia he had left behind are evident in his musical language. Rachmaninov had considered calling the three works “Day”, “Twilight” and “Midnight”, and although he discarded the idea at the last minute, the titles describe the character of each movement well. The work was performed for the first time by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1941. It has not grown to be as famous as his piano concertos or symphonies, but its authorship is no mystery: the music glows in the way that only Rachmaninov could have written it.

(In photo: Karina Canellakis, Photo: Mathias Bothor; Text: Thomas Erma Møller; Translation: Sarah Osa)


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

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