Artists

Conductor

10 - 13 May '20

Tour VIII
10 - 13 May '20

Mikhail Pletnev

Tour

Concert dates and locations

Artists

Programme Bern and Lucerne

Overture As a prelude to each concert, talented Swiss singers and instrumentalists will have the opportunity to introduce themselves to the public. This is a twofold "overture", which not only serves as an introduction to the concerts but also as a career gateway for our "our stars of tomorrow”.


Ouverture

With his Piano Concerto No. 2, Sergei Rachmaninoff achieved nothing less than an artistic liberation. After the disastrous premiere of his First Symphony in 1897, the young musician was lost in self-doubt and depression. He could hardly compose for three years and only managed to keep his head above water as a conductor and a pianist. A doctor, internist Nikolai Dahl, was finally able to help him through hypnosis. Basically, Dahl did nothing but restore the composer's self-confidence: The sentence "You will write your concerto, and it will be excellent" became Rachmaninoff's mantra. The musician set to work on his opus 18 in the summer of 1900. After a successful partial performance at the end of the year, he completed the work in April 1901. The acclaimed premiere in October restored Rachmaninoff's reputation as a composer.
In fact, this score gives the impression that Rachmaninoff has finally regained full possession of his capacities. "I always try to express what is close to my heart," he admitted in retrospect. The primary characteristic of the concerto in C minor is undoubtedly its romanticism. The emphasis is on catchy melodies, which vary with a high degree of refinement to be constantly revived and even endured. The transitions between the movements are just as systematically constructed as the highlights within the movements – a challenge for the soloist, but a treat for the listener! The concerto is dedicated to Rachmaninoff's "saviour", Nikolai Dahl.

1. Prologue - Allegro vivo. Andantino
2. March - Moderato
3. Dancing scene - Moderato con moto
4. Finale - Andantino. Allegro vivo. Allegro risoluto. Andante
5. Scene - Allegro vivo. Moderato. Moderato con moto
6. Waltz - Allegro
7. Coda - Allegro giusto
8. Intermission - Andante sostenuto
9. Symphonic interlude (Sleep) and Scene - Andante misterioso. Allegro vivace
10. Finale - Allegro agitato

Although Tchaikovsky's ballets are regarded as great classics of the repertoire and models of their kind, their success was by no way predestined. The Nutcracker's premiere was a fiasco, Swan Lake only gained its popularity long after the composer's death, while the music of Sleeping Beauty was long considered to be far too severe and symphonic. What was once the object of criticism are now the assets of these works. Tchaikovsky's ballets not only serve as a musical backdrop for dazzling choreographic productions but also assert their own artistic value.
Sleeping Beauty soon found its way into the symphonic repertoire as a concert suite. The best-known version is the Suite op. 66a, which includes five movements and whose authorship has been falsely attributed to Tchaikovsky. Mikhail Pletnev's version contains a larger number of excerpts from the ballet. This suite also respects the chronological order, since the movements mostly follow the course of the ballet's libretto.
Character and social dances play an essential role in Tchaikovsky's ballet. The court life surrounding Princess Aurora (the "Sleeping Beauty") presents itself as a colourful, multi-layered social structure that constantly translates its feelings and convictions into action, step sequences and movement. However, there are also moments of pause, of large symphonic paintings such as the one in which Prince Désiré discovered his love for Aurora. Here, it is undoubtedly the Tchaikovsky as "portraitist of the soul", who is at work, listening to the inner emotions deeply buried within each of his characters.

Programme Zurich and Geneva

Overture As a prelude to each concert, talented Swiss singers and instrumentalists will have the opportunity to introduce themselves to the public. This is a twofold "overture", which not only serves as an introduction to the concerts but also as a career gateway for our "our stars of tomorrow”.


Ouverture

Rachmaninoff produced his first works even before completing his piano and composition studies at the Moscow Conservatory. The Concerto in F sharp minor, which the composer started to write in 1890, takes up some fragments from a first piano concerto project undertaken at the age of sixteen. Rachmaninoff acknowledged the fact that he had "wandered for a long time" with this work, which finally required a whole year's work. Rachmaninoff dedicated the concerto to his pianist cousin Alexander Siloti and chose to designate it as his Opus 1, although he already had some twenty pieces to his credit. The composer himself created the first movement of the concerto in 1892, during a student concert at the Moscow Conservatory. Just before leaving his homeland for good in 1917, Rachmaninoff largely reworked the piece whose orchestration he found "even worse than music". It is in its revised form that this concerto still indebted to the romantic tradition of Chopin and Liszt has established itself in the piano repertoire.
The history of music provides numerous examples of highly productive composers who owe their fame to a few works only. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is one of them. The name is familiar to most music lovers but is often ignored in concert halls. Just a few pieces - including the Spanish Capriccio, the Russian Easter Festival Overture and of course Sheherazade - have truly made a place for themselves in the "great" symphonic repertoire. The Russian composer could be better known in opera houses since most of his production is devoted to operas. But his signature remains once again discreet, to say the least, on theatre bills outside of Russia. Rimsky-Korsakov finally left his mark in the field of orchestration. Not only did he write a reference book (Principles of Orchestration) in which he detailed the use of orchestral colours and textures, but he also revised a number of Mussorgsky manuscripts after the composer's death.
Rimsky-Korsakov also showed his talent as an orchestrator in several suites that he drew from his own operas. The Snow Maiden is a four-act opera that was premiered in St. Petersburg in 1882. Rimsky-Korsakov promised his audience that this was "the most beautiful opera composed in Russia since Glinka". The libretto is based on the like-named play by the famous playwright Alexander Ostrovsky and tells the story of a fragile young girl (Snegurochka), daughter of the Spring Fairy and Father Frost. This fervent hymn to nature and love is summed up in the four sections of the symphonic suite: Introduction, Dance of the Birds, Procession of Tsar Berendey and Dance of the Skomorokhi (Dance of the Tumblers).
Rimsky-Korsakov composed The Tale of Tsar Saltan, based on a Pushkin poem, for the centenary of the author's birth. This opera in four acts was first performed in Moscow on 3rd November 1900 and mainly owes its reputation to the "Flight of the Bumblebee" which serves as an orchestral interlude in the third act. The piece is often played for itself but is also sometimes included in the Suite in three sections (The Tsar's Farewell and Departure, The Tsarina in a Barrel at Sea and The Three Wonders) that Rimsky-Korsakov drew from the opera.
The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh, an opera based on two old Russian legends, gave the composer a hard time. "I have just finished the most imperfect of imperfect operas", Rimsky-Korsakov confessed in 1904 after completing the work. The sparkling score is nevertheless one of the composer's most luxurious and successful achievements, as the orchestra Suite in four parts (Prelude: A Hymn to Nature, Bridal Procession, The Battle of Kerzhenets and Apotheosis of Fevronia) can attest.

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Good to know

Be it as pianist, conductor or composer, Mikhail Pletnev is one of Russia’s most respected and influential artists. He grew up a musical family and studied at the Moscow Conservatory. In 1978, he won the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition when he was only 21, thus earning early worldwide recognition. Thanks to the friendship he developed with Mikhail Gorbachev, he formed in 1990 the Russian National Orchestra, the first independent orchestra in Russia’s history, which he continues to serve as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor. In 2006, he extended his cultural commitment by setting up the Mikhail Pletnev Fund for the Support of National Culture, a non-profit organisation that encourages major cultural initiatives and projects. Mikhail Pletnev also pursues a career as guest conductor, soloist and composer. His numerous works include pieces for orchestra, piano, strings and voices. His recordings have earned him multiple awards, including a Grammy Award in 2005 for his own arrangement for two pianos of Prokofiev’s ballet Cinderella. He has also made arrangements of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty ballets.

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