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C20 Russian Masterpieces

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© Ben Ealovega

© Ben Ealovega

Conductor Graham Ross
Piano John Reid
Trumpet Richard Thomas

Schubert Overture in the Italian Style
Shostakovich Piano Concerto in D
Mozart Symphony no.31, Paris
Prokofiev Sinfonietta


Shostakovich Piano Concerto

The concerto, completed in 1933, incorporates and parodies many other musical works. Shostakovich's extensive use of diverse musical quotations was groundbreaking at the time. In album notes, Robert Matthew-Walker writes, "With such a polyglot collection of quotations and influences, only a composer of genius could have moulded this variety into a cohesive whole. The miracle is that Shostakovich succeeded, and constructed a distinctive and indestructible work..." He also notes that the concerto contains a strong element of parody, beginning with a reference to Beethoven's "Appassionata" Sonata, and ending with "an uproarious quotation" of Beethoven's "Rage Over a Lost Penny" and a slice of Haydn's D major Piano Sonata. The work also includes quotations from Shostakovich's own "Hamlet" incidental music Op. 32, and from a revue, "Conditionally Killed" Op. 31.

In the second movement Shostakovich presents a parody of a theme from his ballet The Golden Age (1935). In the final movement Shostakovich includes excerpts from his opera Christopher Columbus (1929) and Beethoven's Rondo a capriccio.

Shostakovich adds sarcasm with quotations of the Austrian folk song "Ach du lieber Augustin"—Augustin being a character who seems to survive any catastrophe, thanks to his propensity for alcohol.

Prokofiev Sinfonietta

Sergei Prokofiev composed and played piano from age four, and at 12 entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where his professors included such giants as Glazunov, Rimsky-Korsakov and Liadov. He graduated in 1909 and that same year wrote a Sinfonietta for chamber orchestra. This early, unpublished version would not live up to Prokofiev’s later standards, but he clearly thought the piece showed promise. His second pass at the Sinfonietta came in 1914, at which point the work entered his catalog as Opus 5. Five years may not seem like a huge gap between versions, but consider that the first draft was written by an 18-year-old in the orbit of 19th-century Romantics and the second by a 23-year-old who had just heard Stravinsky’s sensational ballet scores The Firebird, Petrushka, and — most influentially — The Rite of Spring.

Prokofiev was a world-famous composer living in Paris when he turned to his Sinfonietta again in 1929. The final version is a charming example of the 20th-century fascination with the musical conventions of 18th-century Vienna. The authoritative edition of the Sinfonietta was performed in Moscow in 1930, and received one last re-examination when Prokofiev reworked the Scherzo for his Six Pieces for Piano, Opus 52. Aaron Grad ©2009

Earlier Event: June 20
Newbury Choral Society
Later Event: November 29
Handel Messiah