Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff

  1. Romeo and Juliet
  2. Piano Concerto No. 3
  3. Symphony No. 1
  1. Vasily Petrenko conductor
  2. Nikolai Lugansky piano

Music by Russian composers Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Anticipate heady Russian Romanticism as Vasily Petrenko and his countryman Nikolai Lugansky present Rachmaninov’s legendary third piano concerto. While the soloist must make furious efforts to perform this virtuoso piece, audiences are at liberty to fall into the embrace of Rachmaninov’s ravishing harmonies and rich sound. Tchaikovsky’s incandescent orchestral fantasy about the tale of Romeo and Juliet is equally rich in content. Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 1 concludes the programme, a work critics once claimed should belong in hell (!), but which in recent decades has been performed in concert halls around the world with increasing regularity.

William Shakespeare’s timeless drama about the star-crossed lovers appealed urgently to the Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky (1840−1893). He found a resonance in his own hopeless love life, and conjured up generous amounts of memorable music to Shakespeare’s dramatic tale. This orchestral fantasy brings together his abilities to produce powerful music for both the ballet and for symphony orchestra, bestowing upon the listener one of his most passionate love scenes and his own dramatic musical expression of the greatest love story of all time.

Like Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninov’s (1873−1943) life and career was also characterised by extremes. When his first symphony was premiered in St. Petersburg in 1897, it was damned by critics. “If there were a conservatory in Hell, and if one of its talented students were asked to compose a programmatic symphony about the ten plagues of Egypt, and had written a symphony like Mr. Rachmaninov’s, this would have been considered an expert execution of the task, bringing joy to the inhabitants of Hell. For us, however, the music bears an expression of evil.” raged Cesar Cui.

Cui’s criticism is difficult to understand when one listens to Rachmaninov’s ambitious and dramatic symphony. The work has a Russian sound, and opens with a dramatic theme which is often associated with fate, especially when it returns in the last movement, after developing into a battle of life and death. Also part of the story is that the world premiere took place after a scandalouly short rehearsal period, with a conductor who was totally uninterested in the work, and possibly even intoxicated. In any case, it sent the composer into a long period of depression, and he concealed the work for many years. Only after the second world war was the work performed again, this time in Moscow, and it has over the years found its place in standard orchestral repertoire.

Doctor Nikolai Dahl’s hypnotherapy eventually helped Rachmaninov recover from his depression, after which he wrote the works which have granted him a permanent place in musical history: his second and third piano concertos. Rachmaninov was one of the most famous pianists of his time, and was the soloist during the world premiere of his third piano concerto in New York in 1909.

An ominous mood looms over the orchestra as the piano plays the principal theme at the beginning of Piano Concerto No. 3. The theme is a captivatingly simple one, with what many would describe as a Russian colour. But don’t be fooled. What follows is no ordinary Romantic solo concerto, but one of the most breakneck journeys a pianist can undertake. Many who harbour the ambition of performing this glorious milestone of a concerto have stumbled in the technical nightmare which awaits them. After the theme’s introduction, the soloist is cast out into a frenzied pursuit, confronting colossal chords stretching fingers to their limits, and passages of incredible rhythmical complexity. And if you are impressed by the technical difficulties of the first movement, just wait for the finale …

(In photo: Nikolai Lugansky, Photo: Marco Borggreve; Text: Thomas Erma Møller; Translation from Norwegian: Sarah Osa)

Tickets

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