Klaus Mäkelä

Klaus Mäkelä
Klaus Mäkelä, conductor & cellist. Photo by Heikki Tuuli (2015)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Bruno Philippe & Tanguy de Williencourt interpret Ludwig van Beethoven & Franz Schubert (Audio video)

It gives Tanguy de Williencourt and me great pleasure to present this programme devoted to Beethoven and Schubert, which moreover allows us to continue our exploration of the music of German-speaking composers.

When we first broached the idea of making a recording, it seemed apt to us to include the cello transcription of the "Kreutzer" Sonata made by Czerny. An absolute masterpiece in its original scoring, this work is in my view equally successful in its alternative guise. Beyond enriching the cello repertoire with a "sixth" Beethoven sonata, the work is thrilling to perform, notwithstanding its considerable technical challenges.

Granted, we could have chosen from among the five canonical sonatas for cello and piano; clearly these are works of genius in their own right, but the power of the "Kreutzer" Sonata captivated me to a much greater degree from the start. Upon discovering the Czerny transcription, I had the urgent desire and need to perform it. Having had several opportunities to present the transcription in recital, Tanguy and I were pleasantly surprised by the response: audiences became intrigued and proved most enthusiastic.

The Arpeggione Sonata is another matter entirely. However, this too is a transcription, played in the key of A (the tonality of A minor here and A major elsewhere forms another unifying thread). Schubert is a model of musical thinking for me, my constant companion and mentor. From my earliest years, his music has been with me, in my moments of happiness as well as at a time of difficulty; his genius was immediately self-evident, and his capacity to depict the human soul in all its guises was disarming in its simplicity. When we feel joyful, his music can intensify joy; when we experience sadness or sorrow, he manages to bring comfort, heal the wounds and lessen the pain.

This then was the genesis of the present programme, shaped by our curiosity, our thirst for challenges and our affection for the repertoire recorded here. Is there a better way to make one's entrance than in the company of Schubert and Beethoven? Are there happier companions for a debut recording? I think not. One might question the validity of releasing this disc today when much of this repertoire is already available in excellent readings by gifted performers, whose talent is renowned and venerated. The current project is the culmination of a cherished dream born of my deep affection for these works. It is also part of my endeavour to put all my faculties in the service of this music (some of the greatest ever written), as so many performers have done before me.

I realise this is a gamble and I accept the risks: our encounter with the Kreutzer and Arpeggione Sonatas has been hugely stimulating and rewarding for us. And it is now our sincere hope that you, our listeners, will derive as much joy from hearing this disc as we have had in preparing and making it. Until we meet again, in recital or via our next recording, we invite you to enjoy it!

I wish to express my gratitude to harmonia mundi and its entire staff (Christian, Patricia, Jean-Marc along with many others) for their confidence in me; to Alban Moraud for his confidence and the pleasure we derived from working with him; to Clément and Clémentine at L'Agence Artist Management for their support, trust and day-to-day efforts; to my teachers M. Mille, Y. Chiffoleau, R. Pidoux, J. Pernoo, C. Hagen, F. Helmerson; to C. Eschenbach in particular for his invaluable advice and close involvement in our musical activities; to the Beare's International Violin Society (Maja, So-Ock); to Manon, Bertrand, Jérôme D. and to my parents, to whom I dedicate this recording: to Bernard, the pieces by Beethoven, who was his favourite composer, and to Martine, those by Schubert whom she adored as much as I've come to love him today.

Source: Bruno Philippe | Translation: Mike Sklansky (CD Booklet)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

♪ Sonata for violin & piano No.9 "Kreutzer", Op.47 (1802-1803), transcription for cello and piano by Carl Czerny (1791-1857)

i. Adagio sostenuto – Presto
ii. Andante con variazioni
iii. Finale. Presto

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

♪ Nacht und Träume, D.827 (1825)

♪ Der Jüngling und der Tod, D.545 (1817)

♪ Sonata in A minor for Arpeggione and Piano, D.821 (1824)

i. Allegro moderato
ii. Adagio
iii. Allegretto

♪ Ständchen, D.889 (1826)

Bruno Philippe, cello
Tanguy de Williencourt, piano

Recorded on April 1-2 & 4-5, 2017, at La Courroie, Entraigues-sur-la-Sorgue, France

Bruno Philippe plays a fine Tononi cello kindly loaned to him through the Beare's International Violin Society.
Tanguy de Williencourt plays a piano Steinway prepared by Bruno Vincent from Piano Pulsion Avignon.

harmonia mundi 2017

(HD 1080p – Audio video)

Before the advent of radio broadcasts and sound recording, the best way for a composer to disseminate his music was to make arrangements of it for additional types of scoring beyond that of the original. This practice could involve a variety of scenarios ranging from faithful transcriptions to fantasias, variations and most fanciful paraphrases, particularly when the source material was operatic arias. Ludwig van Beethoven – whose every note was penned only after weighty consideration – did not look kindly upon such practices, preferring to exercise iron control over his musical material. Nonetheless he did leave behind a few arrangements of his own compositions, while delegating the task of arranging other of his works to his pupils Carl Czerny and Ferdinand Ries. Notably Ludwig did succumb to the fashion for variations: for the combination of cello and piano alone, he left three sets taking their themes from Handel's Judas Maccabaeus (WoO 45) and Mozart's The Magic Flute (WoO 46 and op.66).

A remarkable virtuoso in his own right, Carl Czerny (in addition to his abundant output of piano etudes) was tasked by Beethoven to prepare piano reductions of several of his compositions, starting with the nine symphonies. It is not known whether the transcriptions of the Kreutzer Sonata were prepared at the composer's request, but one could imagine he sanctioned them. Czerny started with a reduction for piano solo (published in 1837); then around 1822 he made the present version for cello and piano, at the time intended for Josef Lincke, who premiered the Cello Sonatas Nos. 4 and 5. Published by Simrock around 1856, it was promptly forgotten – until its 1990s re-discovery by Dimitry Markevitch, who came across it in a second-hand bookshop and subsequently prepared its first modern-day edition.

Both Beethoven and Czerny commented on the monumental stature and unusual "concertante" character of this work. Composed for the British virtuoso George Bridgetower, who premiered it in May of 1803 with Beethoven at the keyboard, the sonata was eventually dedicated to Rudolf Kreutzer, after George and Ludwig had had a falling out. Although the dedicatee never deigned to perform it and found the music unintelligible, his name lives on thanks to the title of Leo Tolstoy's 1889 novella which became the subject of countless stage and film adaptations and tributes (including a string quartet by Leoš Janáček).

The Sonata's larger-than-life character can be witnessed right from the start in its very opening movement (in the key of A minor), which features three themes and takes impressive liberties: its slow introduction, development section and coda continually break all the rules with their startling harmonic and emotional shifts. The middle movement, in F major, is in the form of a theme with four variations. It serves to relieve the tension generated by the opening, although the writing remains intricate, and it leads right into the galloping Finale, in A major. The adjustments made by Czerny concern the cello part alone in order to accommodate the new instrument's tessitura and tuning.

In his "Arpeggione" Sonata, composed in November of 1824, Franz Schubert follows a tonal progression not unlike that of the Kreutzer Sonata (from A minor to A major). This work is similarly "on loan" from another repertoire: that of the "arpeggione", a kind of bowed guitar invented by the Viennese instrument-maker Johann Georg Stauffer and briefly popular in the 1820s. The Sonata was most likely intended for Schubert's friend Vincenz Schuster, the sole known champion of the arpeggione. Its rapid obsolescence consigned the sonata to oblivion. After the work's publication in 1871, when the vogue for the instrument had long passed, the Sonata was quickly appropriated by viola players and cello players. Here we are far removed from the titanic battles of the Kreutzer Sonatas: instead the soundscape is lyrical and enchanting. As in his violin sonatas, Schubert embraces a showy virtuosity he rarely exhibits elsewhere. With assured mastery he deploys the ample tessitura particular to the six-string arpeggione. Each of the movements sparkles with musical ideas, turning the opening Allegro moderato and especially the closing Allegretto into an exuberant kaleidoscope of colours. The middle movement, the Adagio in E, is filled with his distinctive long-arching phrases which hesitate between major and minor modes; perhaps these fleeting clouds reflect the turmoil felt by the composer, whose mental and physical state was being undermined as a side effect of a treatment for syphilis, in essence a gradual mercury poisoning.

On July 3, 1822, Schubert, aged 25, wrote a short confessional text entitled Mein Traum (My Dream) in which he evoked the wounds he had been nursing since childhood – the rift with his father, the untimely death of his mother. We learn about his hunger for love, about his loneliness, his retreat into nature, about the troubling contiguity between joy and sorrow, between ecstasy and death. So many of these themes find a constant echo in the 600 plus art-songs he composed between 1811 and 1828: "Through long, long years, I sang my songs", he continues in Mein Traum. Yet in his music, Schubert is able to transcend the words he is setting: "But when I wished to sing of love, it turned to sorrow. And when I wanted to sing of sorrow, it turned into love".

The three song transcriptions presented here illustrate this point admirably. Composed in March of 1817 to a text by Joseph von Spaun, Der Jüngling und der Tod (The Young Man and Death) adopts the format of a short dramatic scene which unfolds in twilight tones. The young man of the title seeks liberation in death, and his call is answered with open arms. In the second setting he made of the poem a few days after the first, Schubert adds a weighty marching step to the accompaniment just before Death's final reply; here we are reminded of another "grim reaper", the one from "Death and the Maiden" (and the string quartet, the second movement of which derives from the song melody).

In Nacht und Träume (Night and Dreams), to a text by Matthäus von Collin, the narrator seeks consolation from the night. The outcome seems to be fixed, and resignation must follow: the tempo is very slow ("sehr langsam"), the dynamic marking is "pianissimo"; long vocal phrases float over a rocking accompaniment which hardly varies from beginning to end. In Ständchen (Serenade), to a text by Ludwig Rellstab, the night is an ally: observed only by the moon above, the lover at last finds the courage to ask for his lady's heart. This celebrated song comes from the Schwanengesang (Swan Song), the song cycle assembled from settings Schubert made between August and October 1828 and published after his death.

Source: Claire Delamarche | Translation: Mike Sklansky (CD Booklet)

Bruno Philippe was born in 1993 in Perpignan, France. There, he began studying the cello with Marie-Madeleine Mille and regularly attended Yvan Chiffoleau's masterclasses. In 2008, he pursued his studies at the CRR in Paris in the class of Raphael Pidoux. In 2009 he was unanimously accepted by the Paris National Conservatory of Music and Dance in the class of Jerome Pernoo and joined Claire Desert's chamber music class. Subsequently, he participated in the masterclasses of David Geringas, Steven Isserliss, Gary Hoffman, Pieter Wispelwey and Clemens Hagen at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Since October 2014, he has been studying as a young soloist at the Kronberg Academy with Frans Helmerson.

In November 2011, he won the third Grand Prix and the Best recital at the André Navarra International Competition. In September 2014, he won the third prize and audience prize at the International Competition of the ARD in Munich. He won a Special Prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in June 2015 and the Special Prize in recognition of an outstanding performance at the Grand Prix Emmanuel Feuermann in Berlin in November 2014. In 2015, Bruno Philippe was appointed Révélation Classique of the ADAMI, and in 2016, he won the Prix pour la musique of the Safran Foundation dedicated to cello. In 2017, he is laureate of the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels.

Bruno Philippe has been invited to appear at the Kammersaal of the Berlin Philharmonia, La Cité de la Musique, the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Salle Gaveau and Salle Pleyel in Paris, the Halle aux Grains in Toulouse, the Kursaal in Besançon, the Alte Oper in Frankfurt and to play with the Bayerische Rundfunk, the Münchener Kammerorchestrer, the Orchestre Philarmonique de Monte-Cazrlo, or else the Orchestre National du Capitole, Toulouse. He has also performed at the Festival Pablo Casals in Prades, the Festival de Pâques in Aix-en-Provence, La Folle Journée de Nantes, the Rheingau Musik Festival, the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival, the Festival Radio France de Montpellier, at La Roque d'Anthéron, the Amsterdam Cello Biennale, the Mozartfest Würzburg, the Munich BR Studio, Schwetzinger SWR-Festspiele, the Rheingau Musik Festival...

He has also had the chance to play with many renowned musicians: Gary Hoffman, Tabea Zimmermann, Gidon Kremer, Christian Tetzlaff, David Kadouch, Alexandra Conounova, Renaud Capuçon, Jérôme Ducros, Antoine Tamestit, Sarah Nemtanu, Lise Berthaud, Christophe Coin, Jérôme Pernoo, Raphaël Pidoux, Emmanuelle Bertrand, as well as Violoncelles Français or Les Dissonances (David Grimal).

During the next few months, Bruno Philippe can be seen in concertos, above all with the Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt and Orchesterakademy of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, with the Orchestre Dijon-Bourgogne conducted by Gabor Takacs-Nagy, with the Orchestre de la Garde Républicaine or else the Junges Sinfonieorchester Münster. He will be performing at the Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Auditorium du Louvre in Paris, the Alte Oper in Francfort, Salle Cortot in Paris, the Festival de Pâques de Deauville, the Chorégies d'Orange, or else Les Victoires de la Musique Classique at the Auditorium de Radio-France, Paris.

His first album, devoted to Brahms's Sonatas, recorded with the pianist Tanguy de Williencourt for the Evidence Classic label, came out in 2015. In 2017 he joins the label Harmonia Mundi and releases a new album around Beethoven and Schubert's sonatas, with Tanguy de Williencourt.

He was also awarded scholarships from the Safran Foundation for music, the Raynaud-Zurfluh Foundation, the Rheingold Foundation, the AMOPA, the Banque Populaire Foundation, and in August 2014 won the Nicolas Firmenich price at the Verbier Festival. He also received the support of the "Christa Verhein-Stiftung" for his studies at the Kronberg Academy.

Bruno Philippe plays a fine Tononi cello kindly loaned to him through the Beare's International Violin Society.

Source: lagence-management.com

A true Renaissance musician, the French pianist Tanguy de Williencourt (b. 1990) is an accomplished soloist and chamber musician, who is also pursuing studies as a conductor.

After having completed, in 2013, his Master's degrees in piano, accompaniment and vocal coaching with highest honors at the Paris Conservatoire, he entered the prestigious Artist Diploma Programme there, and was admitted to follow Alain Altinoglu's orchestral conducting class. The pianists who have particularly influenced him include Roger Muraro, Jean-Frédéric Neuburger, and Claire Désert.

Besides, advice of Maria João Pires, Christoph Eschenbach and Paul Badura-Skoda particularly impact him.

A recipient in 2014 of the Blüthner Foundation award given annually to one outstanding pianist at the Paris Conservatoire, Tanguy has also been a prize winner at the Yamaha (2008) and Fauré (2013) competitions.

Tanguy's solo and chamber music performances have taken him to the TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht,  Kyoto's Alti Hall in Kyoto, St Peterburg Philharmonic's Great Hall or Berlin Philharmonic's Chamber Music Hall, and to leading French venues including the Folle Journée de Nantes, Chopin à Bagatelle, La Roque d'Anthéron, or else to the French National Radio.

His first record dedicated to Brahms and Schumann with cellist Bruno Philippe was released in 2015.

Source: tanguydewilliencourt.fr

More photos

See also

Johannes Brahms & Robert Schumann: Works for cello and piano – Bruno Philippe, Tanguy de Williencourt (Audio video)

Antonín Dvořák: Cello Concerto in B minor – Bruno Philippe, Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra, Stéphane Denève (HD 1080p)

Francis Poulenc: Sonate pour violoncelle et piano – Bruno Philippe, Tanguy de Williencourt (HD 1080p)

Joseph Haydn: Cello Concerto No.1 in C major – Bruno Philippe, hr-Sinfonieorchester, Christoph Eschenbach (HD 1080p)

Friday, March 16, 2018

Sergei Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor – Ilia Papoian, St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra, Alexander Titov (HD 1080p)

Russian pianist Ilia Papoian performs Sergei Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, Op.18, with St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra under Alexander Titov. Recorded at St Petersburg Music House on January 24, 2018.

Rachmaninov composed his Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor in 1900, and played the first complete performance on November 9, 1901, with Alexandre Siloti conducting the Moscow Philharmonic Society.

He suffered a shattering career crisis in the 1897 massacre of his First Symphony in St Petersburg, by its first conductor, Glazunov, who was reportedly disablingly drunk – a fiasco the critics en masse, led by César Cui, laid at the composer's feet like an animal carcass. The audience – ever mindful that Rachmaninov had been expelled in 1885 from the local temple of musical instruction – listened stonily, glad for the failure of a young lion schooled elsewhere (in Moscow, he completed the Conservatory course in 1891, and graduated a year later with highest possible grades). Because of the failure of the Symphony No.1, Rachmaninov began to drink immoderately. Believing himself unfit to compose, he tried concentrating on parallel courses as a concert soloist and opera conductor, but embroiled himself in a love affair that ended very badly. By the end of 1899, he was an alcoholic whose hands shook, imperiling his keyboard career. Between January and April 1900, Sergei Vassilyevich saw Dr. Dahl, a Moscow specialist in "neuropsychotherapy", daily, and was urged under hypnosis to compose the new piano concerto that a London impresario was asking for. Trance therapy roused the composer from his lethargy; indeed, he worked with great facility on an excellent new concerto – the Second, in C minor, Op.18 – dedicated to Dr. Dahl in gratitude. Never again in the remaining four decades of his life was Rachmaninov immobilized by depression, despite several convulsive changes of fortune.

The opening, C minor, movement in sonata form was composed last; structurally it is the most conventional. Ten bars of unaccompanied keyboard chords lead directly to a palpitant principal theme for violins, violas, and clarinets – motivic rather than tuneful, despite a melismatic extension for cellos. An episode links this to the second theme, in E flat, one of Rachmaninov's most celebrated melodies, introduced by the piano. Following the development and a maestoso alla marcia reprise, there's a brilliant coda – but no solo cadenza, yet.

In the E major, Adagio sostenuto movement, after four bars of Tchaikovskian string chords, piano arpeggios introduce a two-part principal theme, played first by the solo flute, then by the solo clarinet. Piano and orchestra develop both parts before a Tchaikovsky-like theme for bassoons nudges the tempo a bit. Further development goes even quicker, culminating in a solo cadenza that's been teasingly postponed, after which the original material returns, soulfully.

The finale is an Allegro scherzando in C major. The strings play a rhythmic figure that builds to a staccato climax. The piano enters with a flourish, setting up the principal subject – again, as before in I, motivic rather than tuneful, but admirably constructed for developing. This is followed by another of Rachmaninov's signature melodies, lushly undulant, sung by the solo oboe and strings. (In the postwar 1940s, this was garnished with words and performed unrelentingly by big-band vandals as Full Moon and Empty Arms). A fugato brings back the principal subject, followed by a Maestoso statement of "The Tune". Accelerating fistfuls of piano chords set up a crowd-rousing conclusion.

Source: Roger Dettmer (allmusic.com)

Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)

♪ Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, Op.18 (1900-1901)

i. Moderato
ii. Adagio sostenuto
iii. Allegro scherzando


Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)

♪ Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. posth. (1830)

Ilia Papoian, piano

St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Alexander Titov

St Petersburg Music House, January 24, 2018

(HD 1080p)

Ilia Papoyan was born in 2001 in St Petersburg and began studying music at the age of seven. From 2009 to 2011 he studied at the Rachmaninov Children's School of Art (Class of Gemma Sedletskaya). In 2011 he entered the special music school of the St Petersburg State Conservatory (Class of Olga Kurnavina and Professor Alexander Sandler).

Ilia is a laureate of many international piano competitions. Among them are the International Chopin Competition in St Petersburg (2nd prize, 2010), the International Competition of Young Pianist dedicated to the Work of '"Fryderyk Chopin" in Narva (1st prize, 2016), the International Bach Competition (2nd prize, 2013), the International Music Competition "Music Anyday" in Moscow (1st prize, 2015), and the X International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians in Astana, Kazakhstan (2nd prize, 2017). In May 2016 Ilia became the diploma winner of the Grand Piano Competition which took place in Moscow.

Ilia has already performed in various concert halls in St Petersburg: in the Dmitri Shostakovich St Petersburg Academic Philharmonia, in the Small Hall of the Rimsky-Korsakov St Petersburg State Conservatory as well as in the State Academic Capella. Every year he performs with the symphony orchestra on the stage of the State Philharmonia for Children and Youth.

He has participated in master classes with Andrey Diev and Gregory Gruzman. Member of the St Petersburg Music House programs since 2016.

Source: eng.spdm.ru / emcy.org

The Russian conductor Alexander Titov (b. 1954, St Petersburg) studied at the Leningrad State Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatoire, where he concentrated on three distinct fields: choral conducting (class of Professor A. Mikhailov) and piano (class of Professor V. Gentsler) graduating in 1976, and operatic-symphonic conducting (in the class of Professor Ilya Musin) graduating in 1981. In 1988 he was a prize-winner of the International Min-On Competition in Tokyo.

In 1976 he began his conducting career as assistant to Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Mstislav Rostropovich, and has since become one of Russia's leading conductors. From 1989 to present he is Conductor of Mariinsky (former Kirov) Opera and Ballet Theatre. He is a regular Guest Conductor with the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra (since 1991), Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra (since 2002), and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (since 1993). In addition, he has worked with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and all he leading St Petersburg symphony orchestras, including the Symphony Orchestra of Saint Petersburg Philharmonia, the St Petersburg Festival Orchestra, the St Petersburg New Classical Orchestra, the St Petersburg Chamber Orchestra "Canon," and the St Petersburg Conservatory Chamber Orchestra.

In 1981 Alexander Titov assumed the post of lecturer in opera and symphonic conducting at the Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory of St Petersburg. In July-August 1990 he participated in Tanglewood International Conductors' Seminar (USA).

Alexander Titov has toured widely, with visits to the USA, UK, Germany, Italy, Holland, Finland, Austria, Portugal, Spain, Japan, China - Hong-Kong, Columbia, Brazil, Latvia, and other countries, and has made appearances in the world's leading opera theatres, such as La Scala, La Fenice, Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, and San Francisco Opera. He works regularly with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, notably on the orchestra's ground-breaking tour of China in November 2000.

Alexander Titov is the recipient of the Golden Masque Prize (2001), St Petersburg's highest prize in theatrical arts Golden Soffit for the best conductor's work (2002), and the Fortissimo Prize initiated by the St Petersburg Conservatoire (2003). He has recorded over 70 CD's, with a huge and diverse canon drawn from the classical, romantic, and contemporary periods. He has placed particular emphasis on the symphonic, operatic, and ballet repertoires of Russian composers – including Glinka, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Schnittke. This interest extends to works of contemporary Russian composers.

Source: bach-cantatas.com

The St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1967 by Nikolai Rabinovich, Edward Grikurov, and Karl Eliasberg, and until 1985 it was nicknamed the "Orchestra of Ancient and Modern Music", due to its concentration on early music and new works. Led for ten years by Edward Serov, the orchestra toured throughout the Soviet Union and internationally, and performed at many music festivals. In 1985, the ensemble was elevated to state orchestra status, under the leadership of Ravil Martynov. He toured with the orchestra in China, Japan, Germany, Austria, Spain, Finland, Norway, Sweden, France, Belgium, and Mexico. Vasily Petrenko was the chief conductor from 2004 to 2007, followed by Alexander Titov from 2007 to 2013. From 2008 to 2014, the principal guest conductor was Vladimir Lande, who took the orchestra on tour to the United States, Latin America, and South Korea. He was succeeded by Walter Proost in 2014. The orchestra has recorded for Marco Polo and Naxos.

Source: Blair Sanderson (allmusic.com)

More photos

See also

Sergei Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor – Sergei Redkin, St Petersburg State Capella Symphony Orchestra, Sergei Roldugin (HD 1080p)

Sergei Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor – Yuja Wang, Verbier Festival Orchestra, Yuri Termikanov (HD 1080p)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Call Me by Your Name (2017) – A film by Luca Guadagnino – Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois – James Ivory, Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (Download the movie)

"Call Me by Your Name": An Erotic Triumph

Luca Guadagnino's latest film is emotionally acute and overwhelmingly sensual.

By Anthony Lane

The New Yorker, December 4, 2017

The new film by Luca Guadagnino, "Call Me by Your Name", begins in the summer of 1983, in a place so enchanted, with its bright green gardens, that it belongs in a fairy tale. The location, the opening credits tell us, is "Somewhere in Northern Italy". Such vagueness is deliberate: the point of a paradise is that it could exist anywhere but that, once you reach the place, it brims with details so precise in their intensity that you never forget them. Thus it is that a young American named Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives, dopey with jet lag, at the house of Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) and his Italian wife, Annella (Amira Casar), whose custom is to spend their summers there and also to return for Hanukkah. (Like them, Oliver is Jewish; a closeup shows a Star of David hanging from a chain around his neck.) The Professor, an American expert in classical archeology, requires an annual assistant, and Oliver is this year's choice. "We'll have to put up with him for six long weeks", Annella says, with a sigh. Not long enough, as it turns out. You can pack a whole lifetime into six weeks.

The first words of the film are "The usurper". They are uttered by the Perlmans' only child – their son, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), who is seventeen. He stands at an upstairs window with his friend Marzia (Esther Garrel) and watches Oliver below, fearful that the American may break the reigning peace. The Professor is more welcoming, and he proposes a kind of free trade, both spatial and emotional, that will resound throughout. "Our home is your home", he says to Oliver. "My room is your room", Elio adds, a few seconds later, like an echo. He has moved into the adjoining room for the duration of Oliver's stay, and they must share a bathroom. The sharing will deepen, from handshakes to confidences, and from cigarettes to kisses and other mouthly charms, concluding in the most profound exchange of all, whispered from a few inches' distance and proclaimed in the title of the movie.

"Call Me by Your Name" is, among other things, an exercise in polyglottery, and Elio chats to his parents and friends in an easy blend of English, French, and Italian, sometimes sliding between tongues in the course of a single conversation. (Who would guess that a household, no less than a city, can be a melting pot?) His father and Oliver enjoy a clash of wits about the twisted root of the word "apricot", tracing it through Arabic, Latin, and Greek, and mentioning that one branch leads to the word "precocious" – a nod to Elio, who listens to them with half a smile. He is a prodigy, voraciously bookish, who plays Bach al fresco on the guitar and then inside on the piano, in the manner of Liszt and of Busoni, with Oliver standing in the background, contrapposto, with the elegant tilt of a statue, drinking in the sound and the skill. "Is there anything you don"t know?" he asks, after Elio has told him about an obscure, bloody battle of the First World War.

Prodigies can be a pain, onscreen and off, and Elio – fevered with boyish uncertainties and thrills, though no longer a boy, and already rich in adult accomplishments, yet barely a man – should be an impossible role. Somehow, as if by magic, Chalamet makes it work, and you can't imagine how the film could breathe without him. His expression is sharp and inquisitive, but cream-pale and woundable, too, and saved from solemnity by the grace of good humor; when Oliver says that he has to take care of some business, Elio retorts by impersonating him to his face. Chalamet is quite something, but Hammer is a match for him, as he needs to be, if the characters' passions are to be believed. Elio is taken aback, at the start, by Oliver's swagger – the hesitant youth, steeped in Europe, confronted with can-do American chops. Hammer doesn't strut, but his every action, be it dismounting a bicycle, draining a glass of juice (apricot, of course), slinging a backpack over his shoulder, rolling sideways into a pool, or demolishing a boiled egg at breakfast until it's a welter of spilled yolk suggests a person almost aggressively at home in his own body, and thus in the larger world. Hence the abrupt note that he sends to Elio: "Grow up. See you at midnight".

You could, I suppose, regard Oliver as the incarnation of soft power. Certainly, his handsomeness is so extreme that the camera tends to be angled up at him, as if at one of the ancient bronze deities over which the Professor enthuses. When Oliver wades in a cold stream one glorious day, you stare at him and think, My God, he is a god. And yet, as he and Elio lounge on sun-warmed grass, it's Oliver who seems unmanned, and it's Elio who lays a purposeful hand directly on Oliver's crotch. Now one, now the other appears the more carnally confident of the two. They take a while to find parity and poise, but, once they do, they are inextricable, rendered equal by ardor; the first shot of them, at dawn, after they sleep together, is of limbs so entangled that we can’t tell whose are whose. As for their parting, it is wordless. They look at one another and just nod, as if to say, Yes, that was right. That was how it is meant to be.

The screenplay of "Call Me by Your Name", adapted from André Aciman's novel of the same title, is by James Ivory. He has done a remarkable job, paring away pasts and futures, and leaving us with an overwhelming surge of now. On the page, events are recounted, in the first person, by an older Elio, gazing backward, but Chalamet's Elio lacks the gift of hindsight. In any case, why is it a gift? Who wouldn't prefer to be in the thick of love? The book is a mature and thoughtful vintage; in the film, we're still picking the grapes.

It's tempting to speculate how Ivory, who, as the director of "A Room with a View" (1985) and of "Maurice" (1987), showed his mastery of Italian settings and of same-sex romance, might have fared at the helm of the new film. The rhythm, I suspect, would have been more languorous, as if the weather had seeped into people’s lazy bones, whereas Guadagnino, an instinctive modernist, is more incisive. He and his longtime editor, Walter Fasano, keep cutting short the transports of delight; the lovers pedal away from us, on bikes, to the lovely strains of Ravel's "Mother Goose Suite", only for the scene to hit the brakes. "Call Me by Your Name" is suffused with heat, and piled high with fine food, but it isn't a nice movie; you see it not to unwind but to be wound up – to be unrelaxed by the force with which rapture strikes. There is even a gratifying cameo by a peach, which proves useful in an erotic emergency, and merits an Academy Award for Best Supporting Fruit.

The film's release could not be more propitious. So assailed are we by reports of harmful pleasures, and of the coercive male will being imposed through lust, that it comes as a relief to be reminded, in such style, of consensual joy. "I don't want either of us to pay for this", Oliver says. By falling for each other, he and Elio tumble not into error, still less into sin, but into a sort of delirious concord, which may explain why Elio's parents, far from disapproving, bestow their tacit blessing on the pact. More unusual still is that the movie steers away from the politics of sexuality. Elio makes love to Marzia, on a dusty mattress, in a loft like an old dovecote, only hours before he meets with Oliver at midnight, but you don't think, Oh, Elio's having straight sex, followed by gay sex, and therefore we must rank him as bi-curious. Rather, you are curious about him and his paramours as individuals – these particular bodies, with these hungry souls, at these ravening moments in their lives. Desire is passed around the movie like a dish, and the characters are invited to help themselves, each to his or her own taste. Maybe a true love story (and when did you last see one of those?) has no time for types.

Not that anything endures. Late in the film, the Professor sits with his son on a couch, smokes, and talks of what has occurred. We expect condescension, instead of which we hear a confession. "I envy you", he tells Elio, adding, "We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty". He once came near, he admits, to having what Elio and Oliver had, but something stood in the way, and he advises his child to seize the day, including the pain that the day brings, while he is still young: "Before you know it, your heart is worn out". Much of this long speech is taken from Aciman's novel, but Stuhlbarg delivers it beautifully, with great humility, tapping his cigarette. After which, it seems only natural that so rich a movie should close with somebody weeping, beside a winter fire. The shot lasts for minutes, as did the final shot of Michael Haneke's "Hidden" (2005), but Haneke wanted to stoke our paranoia and our dread, while Guadagnino wants us to reflect, at our leisure, on love: on what a feast it can be, on how it turns with the seasons, and on why it ends in tears.*

* This article appears in the print edition of the December 4, 2017, issue, with the headline "Intertwined".

Source: newyorker.com

Call Me by Your Name (2017)

Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Screenplay by James Ivory, based on "Call Me by Your Name" by André Aciman
Produced by Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges, Rodrigo Teixeira, Marco Morabito, James Ivory, Howard Rosenman

Timothée Chalamet..........Elio Perlman
Armie Hammer..........Oliver
Michael Stuhlbarg..........Lyle Perlman
Amira Casar..........Annella Perlman
Esther Garrel..........Marzia
Victoire Du Bois..........Chiara

Cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
Film Editing by Walter Fasano
Production Design by Samuel Deshors
Art Direction by Roberta Federico
Costume Design by Giulia Piersanti
Makeup Department: Fernanda Perez

Countries: Italy, United States, Brazil, France
Language: English, Italian, French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 132 minutes

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"Call Me by Your Name" is far and away the best movie of the year

By Christy Lemire

November 20, 2017

Luca Guadagnino's films are all about the transformative power of nature – the way it allows our true selves to shine through and inspires us to pursue our hidden passions. From the wild, windswept hills of "I Am Love" to the chic swimming pool of "A Bigger Splash", Guadagnino vividly portrays the outside world as almost a character in itself – driving the storyline, urging the other characters to be bold, inviting us to feel as if we, too, are a part of this intoxicating atmosphere.

Never has this been more true than in "Call Me by Your Name", a lush and vibrant masterpiece about first love set amid the warm, sunny skies, gentle breezes and charming, tree-lined roads of northern Italy. Guadagnino takes his time establishing this place and the players within it. He's patient in his pacing, and you must be, as well. But really, what's the rush? It's the summer of 1983, and there's nothing to do but read, play piano, ponder classic art and pluck peaches and apricots from the abundant fruit trees.

Within this garden of sensual delights, an unexpected yet life-changing romance blossoms between two young men who initially seem completely different on the surface.

17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is once again visiting his family's summer home with his parents: his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an esteemed professor of Greco-Roman culture, and his mother (Amira Casar), a translator and gracious hostess. Elio has the gangly body of a boy but with an intellect and a quick wit beyond his years, and the worldliness his parents have fostered within him at least allows him to affect the façade of sophistication. But beneath the bravado, a gawky and self-conscious kid sometimes still emerges. By the end of the summer, that kid will be vanquished forever.

An American doctoral student named Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives for the annual internship Elio's father offers. Oliver is everything Elio isn't – or at least, that's our primary perception of him. Tall, gorgeous and supremely confident, he is the archetypal all-American hunk. But as polite as he often can be, Oliver can also breeze out of a room with a glib, "Later", making him even more of a tantalizing mystery.

Chalamet and Hammer have just ridiculous chemistry from the get-go, even though (or perhaps because) their characters are initially prickly toward each other: testing, pushing, feeling each other out, yet constantly worrying about what the other person thinks. They flirt by trying to one-up each other with knowledge of literature or classical music, but long before they ever have any physical contact, their electric connection is unmistakable. Lazy poolside chats are fraught with tension; spontaneous bike rides into town to run errands feel like nervous first dates.

Writer James Ivory's generous, sensitive adaptation of Andre Aciman's novel reveals these characters and their ever-evolving dynamic in beautifully steady yet detailed fashion. And so when Elio and Oliver finally dare to reveal their true feelings for each other – a full hour into the film – the moment makes you hold your breath with its intimate power, and the emotions feel completely authentic and earned.

The way Elio and Oliver peel away each other's layers has both a sweetness and a giddy thrill to it, even though they feel they must keep their romance a secret from Elio's parents. (Elio also has a kinda-sorta girlfriend in Marzia (Esther Garrel), a thoughtful, playful French teen who's also in town for the summer.) One of the many impressive elements of Chalamet's beautiful, complex performance is the effortless way he transitions between speaking in English, Italian and French, depending on whom Elio is with at the time. It gives him an air of maturity that's otherwise still in development; eventually his massive character arc feels satisfying and true.

But Oliver's evolution is just as crucial, and Hammer finds the tricky balance between the character's swagger and his vulnerability as he gives himself over to this exciting affair. He's flirty but tender – the couple's love scenes are heartbreaking and intensely erotic all at once – and even though he's the more experienced of the two, he can't help but diving in headlong.

And yet, the most resonant part of "Call Me by Your Name" may not even be the romance itself, but rather the lingering sensation that it can't last, which Guadagnino evokes through long takes and expert use of silence. A feeling of melancholy tinges everything, from the choice of a particular shirt to the taste of a perfectly ripe peach. And oh my, that peach scene – Guadagnino was wise when he took a chance and left it in from the novel. It really works, and it's perhaps the ultimate example of how masterfully the director manipulates and enlivens all of our senses.

There's a lushness to the visual beauty of this place, but it’s not so perfect as to be off-putting. Quite the opposite. Despite the director's infamous eye for meticulous detail, cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom's 35mm images provide a tactile quality that heightens the sensations, makes them feel almost primal. We see the wind gently rustling through the trees, or streaks of sunlight hitting Elio's dark curls through an open bedroom window, and while it's all subtly sensual, an inescapable tension is building underneath.

Guadagnino establishes that raw, immediate energy from the very beginning through his use of music. The piano of contemporary classical composer John Adams' intricate, insistent "Hallelujah Junction - 1st Movement" engages us during the elegant title sequence, while Sufjan Stevens' plaintive, synthy "Visions of Gideon" during the film's devastating final shot ends the film on an agonizingly sad note. (You'll want to stay all the way through the closing credits – that long, last image is so transfixing. I seriously don't know how Chalamet pulled it off, but there is serious craft on display here.)

In between is Guadagnino's inspired use of the Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way", an iconic '80s New Wave tune you've probably heard a million times before but will never hear the same way again. The first time he plays it, it’s at an outdoor disco where Oliver feels so moved by the bouncy, percussive beat that he can't help but jump around to it and get lost in the music, lacking all sense of self-consciousness. Watching this towering figure just go for it on the dance floor in his Converse high-tops is a moment of pure joy, but it's also as if a dam has broken within Elio, being so close to someone who's feeling so free. The second time he plays it, toward the end of Oliver and Elio's journey, it feels like the soundtrack to a time capsule as it recaptures a moment of seemingly endless emotional possibility.

They know what they've found has to end – we know it has to end. But a beautiful monologue from the always excellent Stuhlbarg as Elio's warmhearted and open-minded father softens the blow somewhat. It's a perfectly calibrated scene in a film full of them, and it's one of a million reasons why "Call Me by Your Name" is far and away the best movie of the year.

Source: rogerebert.com

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See also

Seashore (Beira-Mar), 2015 – A film by Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon – Mateus Almada, Maurício Barcellos, Elisa Brittes, Fernando Hart, Ariel Artur, Francisco Gick (Download the movie)

mother! (2017) – A film by Darren Aronofsky – Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer (Download the movie)

Okja (2017) – A film by Bong Joon-ho – Ahn Seo-hyun, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, Jake Gyllenhaal, Giancarlo Esposito, Lily Collins, Shirley Henderson (Download the movie)

Im Keller / In the Basement (2014) – A film by Ulrich Seidl (Download the movie)

Maurice (1987) – A film by James Ivory – James Wilby, Hugh Grant, Rupert Graves (HD 1080p)

Shostakovich Against Stalin: The War Symphonies – A Documentary by Larry Weinstein – Netherland Radio Philharmonic, Kirov Orchestra, Valery Gergiev (HD 1080p)

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) – A film by Stephen Frears – Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg (Download the movie)

Son of Saul (2015) – A film by László Nemes – Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnár, Urs Rechn (Download the movie)

Amour (2012) – A film by Michael Haneke – Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Isabelle Huppert, Alexandre Tharaud (Download the movie)

Dmitri Shostakovich: Katerina Izmailova (Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk), 1966 – A film by Mikhail Shapiro – Galina Vishnevskaya, Konstantin Simeonov

The New Babylon (Novyy Vavilon), 1929 – A film by Grigori Kozintsev & Leonid Trauberg – Music by Dmitri Shostakovich (HD 1080p)

Farinelli (1994) – A film by Gérard Corbiau – Stefano Dionisi, Enrico Lo Verso, Elsa Zylberstein (Download the movie)

Eroica (The Movie, BBC 2003) by Simon Cellan Jones – Ian Hart, Leo Bill, Claire Skinner, Frank Finlay – John Eliot Gardiner (HD 1080p)

Tous les Matins du Monde / All the Mornings of the World / Όλα τα Πρωινά του Κόσμου (1991) – A film by Alain Corneau (Download the movie)

Death in Venice (1971) – A film by Luchino Visconti – Dirk Bogarde, Björn Andrésen, Silvana Mangano – Music by Gustav Mahler (Download the movie)

James Ivory, screenwriter of Call Me by Your Name, took home the Oscar
for Best Adapted Screenplay at the age of 89, making him the oldest recipient
in the history of the Oscars.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No.14 in G minor – Julia Korpacheva, Peter Migunov, MusicAeterna, Teodor Currentzis (Download 44.1kHz/16bit)

Alpha is now reissuing three recordings from its back catalogue, the first discs of the conductor Teodor Currentzis. An opportunity to discover or rediscover three very different styles, and three facets of the talent of "the enfant terrible of classical music", as Le Figaro called him, for whom "music is intended to transport into the waking world the sentiments we feel when we dream". With their invitation to travel through different periods and territories, these reissues may be appreciated both separately and as a triptych revealing the artistic approach of Teodor Currentzis and his ensemble MusicAeterna, from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (here served by an exceptional cast of singers) to Shostakovich's Symphony No.14 (conducted like a dance of death) by way of Mozart's Requiem, the Salzburg composer's last work, here given an invigorating reinterpretation.

After a striking Dido and Aeneas, Teodor Currentzis and his Siberian orchestra present a new version of Shostakovich's 14th Symphony, dedicated to Benjamin Britten, that leaves us breathless. He maintains a scrupulous respect for the score and the musicological context in order to give a new energy to the music. Currentzis is not an artist who barges into the music to produce artificial effects. On the contrary, this recording proves again that the strength of his work comes, above all, from a meticulous respect for the score's details, with a coherent larger picture of the interpretation. A lesson that teaches us what the "early music spirit" can provide to all repertoire.

Source: prestoclassical.co.uk

Teodor Currentzis (Photo by Aleksey Gushchin)

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

♪ Symphony No.14 in G minor "Lyrics for the death", Op.135 (1969)

i. Adagio. "De profundis" (Federico García Lorca)
ii. Allegretto. "Malagueña" (F. G. Lorca)
iii. Allegro molto. "Loreley" (Guillaume Apollinaire)
iv. Adagio. "Le Suicidé" (G. Apollinaire)
v. Allegretto. "Les Attentives I" (On watch) (G. Apollinaire)
vi. Adagio. "Les Attentives II" (Madam, look!) (G. Apollinaire)
vii. Adagio. "À la Santé" (G. Apollinaire)
viii. Allegro. "Réponse des Cosaques Zaporogues au Sultan de Constantinople" (G. Apollinaire)
ix. Andante. "O, Del'vig, Del'vig!" (Wilhelm Küchelbecker)
x. Largo. "Der Tod des Dichters" (Rainer Maria Rilke)
xi. Moderato. "Schlußstück" (R. M. Rilke)

Julia Korpacheva, soprano
Peter Migunov, bass

Conductor: Teodor Currentzis

Recorded in July 2009 at the Opera Theatre, Novosibirsk, Russia

Alpha Classics / Outhere Music France 2017

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Dmitry Shostakovich in the early 70s

The "Requiem" Symphony

By Levon Akopian

By the end of the nineteen-sixties Dmitry Shostakovich was at the height of his fame, and with the days of the Stalinist persecutions over, he reaped success and reward. The Soviet authorities smothered him with decorations, countries abroad presented him with honours, and each new work he composed was hailed by the critics. However, the composer's correspondence, published after his death, shows that he was not particularly overjoyed. Early in February 1967 he wrote to his close friend Isaak Glikman: "I am disappointed in myself. Or rather I have come to the conclusion that I am a very dull and mediocre composer. When, from the height of my sixty years, I survey the ‘road behind me’, I would say that only on two occasions has my work been successful: Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District and my Thirteenth Symphony. The success hit home hard. Yet, when everything had calmed clown and things were back to normal, it turned out that both Lady Macbeth and the Thirteenth Symphony went ‘splat!’ as they say in The Nose".

Another letter to Glikman, written on 24 September 1968, is even more expressive: "Tomorrow I'll be sixty-two. People of that age love to show off; when they answer the question ‘If you were to be born again, would you spend your sixty-two years in the same way as you have already?’ they reply, ‘Yes, of course. There were setbacks, there were upsets, but all in all I would spend my sixty-two years in just the same way’. My reply to that question, were it put to me, would be: “No! A thousand times, no!’"

Shortly after that Shostakovich was to express similar existentialist negativism in one of his most despairing works: the Fourteenth Symphony, which is in effect a vocal cycle for soprano, bass and chamber orchestra. The first two songs are settings of pieces by the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) who died tragically, shot during the Spanish Civil War. The third one is to a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), after a ballad by the German Romantic poet Clemens Brentano (1778-1842), and the next five (4-8) are also settings of poems by Apollinaire. The ninth section presents the only Russian poem in the cycle, written by Wilhelm Kückelbecker (1797-1846), and the words of the two remaining songs (10 and 11) are by the Bohemian Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). At the first performance all the texts were sung in Russian, translated by Inna Tynyanova and Anatoly Geleskul (Garcia Lorca), Mikhail Kudinov (Apollinaire) and T. Silman (Rilke). Songs 1, 7, 8 and 9 are for solo bass voice, 2, 4, 5 and 10 for solo soprano, 3, 6 and 9 for soprano and bass, with the final movement in duo.

Shostakovich was strongly aware of the importance of this work. In another letter to Glikman dated 19 March 1969, he wrote: "The Fourteenth Symphony [...] is, as I see it, a landmark composition. Everything that I have been writing over a great number of years has been a preparation for this composition". Yet in this composition, written by an experienced musician of sixty-two, there is none of the calm and serenity that one generally finds in the recapitulative works composed by great artists at the end of their lives. Most noticeable here are the protestation, the despair, the terror at the thought of nonexistence, which at the same time has its lure. Eight of the eleven movements (1 to 6, 10 and 11) are on the subject of death, invariably represented as tragic, premature, violent and unjust. And in No.7, the monologue of an innocent man (Apollinaire) who finds himself in goal (La Santé in Paris), loss of freedom is tantamount to death. The Symphony's short Conclusion ends – or rather shatters – on a violent, aggressive note. The last words leave no room for hope: "Death is great and we are his to mock: when we think we are in the midst of life, death dares to weep among us".

The only movements that do not have death as their theme are 8 and 9, which thus stand out strikingly from the rest. No.8, relating an episode in Russian history, expresses virulent hatred for a tyrant and torturer. No.9, to the only Russian poem in the cycle, sings of the "proud, joyful, free" union of artists, "lovers of the eternal Muse". This piece stands out as an isolated instance in the work of positive emotions, peace and harmony. Furthermore it is written in a very pure major key, whereas all the others show a predominance of atonal lines, capricious, sinuous and often grotesque.

We know from Shostakovich himself that the main historical prototypes of his Fourteenth Symphony were Mussorgsky's Song and Dances of Death and Mahler's Song of the Earth. But it is possible that other works written earlier in the nineteen-sixties had some influence on its composition. At least four major innovative works, each laden with metaphysical meaning, may have left their mark: Shostakovich knew (or could have known) them during the years before he composed his Symphony. Most important is Benjamin Britten's War Requiem (1962), a setting of the Catholic Mass for the Dead interwoven with poems about war by Wilfred Owen. Shostakovich was undoubtedly very fond of this work and, viewed from a certain angle, his Fourteenth Symphony, which is dedicated to Britten, may be seen as a polemical response to the vision of human existence developed by the English composer in the War Requiem. (For further explanation of this, see below.)

Another work to which Shostakovich cannot have been indifferent was Witold Lutoslawski's Paroles tissées – Woven words – for tenor and chamber orchestra (1965), to a text by the French poet Jean-François Chabrun. Apart from the theme of death (which Chabrun treats in a surrealist manner calling to mind the poems of Garcia Lorca), the choice of instruments is similar to that of Shostakovich's Symphony. Both works are scored for strings and percussion (with seventeen string instruments for Lutosławski, nineteen for Shostakovich).

The third work that Shostakovich may have known is Krzysztof Penderecki's oratorio Dies irae (1967), which would have attracted his attention by its use of an original process: its text draws on various literary sources that have nothing in common, and yet the composer succeeds in creating a dramatic line running through the work.

Then there is a composition I would like to look at in more detail, as regards its similarities to the Fourteenth Symphony: Igor Stravinsky's last important work, Requiem Canticles, which had been written and premièred three years previously, in 1966 and published the following year. I do not know whether there is any evidence that Shostakovich was familiar with this "pocket Requiem", as Stravinsky called it, but the two works do have features in common.

The Requiem Canticles recall, through quotations, many of the stylistic touchstones of Stravinsky's career, including Oedipus Rex, Symphonies of Wind Instruments, Symphony of Psalms, and Les Noces, which he presents in a new, dodecaphonic environment that makes them more distant, less familiar. Both composers began to master the twelve-note system – music in which all twelve notes of the chromatic scale have equal importance, i.e. music that is not in any key or mode and may therefore be described as "atonal" – quite late in their careers. In both, that process is used as a metaphysical means of looking back at what is irredeemably of the past and letting it go.

Like an idée fixe, the twelve-note system haunts all the movements of the Fourteenth Symphony except the ninth (O Delvig, Delvig!) and the eleventh (Conclusion). It is no use seeking an elaborate system like that of serialism. For the must part, the twelve-note series used in the Fourteenth Symphony have no common denominator. Basically, in movements 2, 5 and 8 we notice above all series in which the fourth (fifth) is predominant, and in movements 1, 3, 4, 7 and 10, series in which the second and third (sixth) are most noticeable. The series of the former type are generally associated with ideas of cold indifference, ugliness and absurdity, the series of the latter type with sorrow, sadness and compassion.

As in Stravinsky's Requiem Canticles, the motifs from earlier works that are scattered throughout the score are deformed, as in a distorting mirror, by the use of the twelve-note series. Generally speaking, in the mature works written towards the end of his career Shostakovich liked to quote his earlier works; doing so had a symbolic meaning for him that is more or less clear to us. In movement 8, for instance, he recalls his Tenth Symphony of 1953, the year of Stalin's death, which had signaled the victory of the Artist who had not been broken by the régime; here he is quite openly identifying the odious tyrant of Apollinaire's poem with Stalin. In many of the movements we notice a motif consisting of two descending minor seconds identical that of the Fool for Christ in Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. Clearly fond of its plaintive intonation, Shostakovich used it in almost all of his works from the Second Symphony onwards. It is particularly expressive in movement 7 of his Fourteenth Symphony (the prisoner's monologue). As for the syncopated "violence motif" from Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, which he used in key works such as the Seventh, Tenth and Thirteenth Symphonies and the First Violin Concerto, it is quoted not only in the "anti-Stalinist" eighth movement, but also in Loreley (No.3), where it fits in perfectly with the idea that is central to the Brentano-Apollinaire ballad, that the moral code commonly admitted does violence to free will. But few associations are as direct as that one. The Fourteenth Symphony, unlike the three previous ones, in which ideological intentions came to the fore, is a deeply metaphysical work, and is therefore open to many interpretations.

Now I would like to put forward a hypothesis. The content of the Fourteenth Symphony is not unconnected with Benjamin Britten, the work's dedicatee; it is, so to speak, an atheistic response to the "religious" conception of the War Requiem. In the arrangement of its movements, the Symphony has much in common with the Catholic Mass for the Dead: 1 and 2 correspond to the Requiem aeternam and Kyrie, 3 to 6 to the Sequentia, 7 to the Offertorium, 8 and 9 to the Sanctus and Benedictus, 10 to the Agnus Dei and 11 to Libera me. Britten's War Requiem follows exactly the same pattern. We may suppose that Shostakovich borrowed the Catholic model directly from Britten and used it, intentionally or unintentionally, to create his own personal variant of the Requiem.

Obviously, this hypothesis must be treated with caution. But if we compare the content of the poems used by Shostakovich in his Symphony with that of the canonical requiem, we discover some very eloquent parallels. In the War Requiem, the Sequentia (Dies irae) presents the menacing and incorruptible Judge; the sinner begs him to save his soul from the fires of Hell and from everlasting damnation. In Loreley that relationship is completely reversed: the Lorelei beseeches the bishop to burn her at the stake, but the bishop replies that he cannot condemn her because he is bewitched by her and his heart is aflame with love. Further on, the canonical Sequentia ends with the Lacrimosa, whereas in the corresponding part of Shostakovich's Symphony (section 6) the words "But Madame, listen to me" ring out almost like hysterical and obscene laughter. The words of Apollinaire's poem At the Santé gaol (7), in which the prisoner is buried in his cell like a dead man in his grave ("In a pit like a bear... Here the grave arches over me, here there waits only death"), are like a tragic parody of the Offertorium, the prayer for the salvation of souls: "Free the souls of all the faithful departed from infernal punishment and the deep pit". In the stream of insults that the Cossacks pour on the Sultan in No.8 ("more criminal than Barabbas... executioner of Podalia...), it is easy to see a blasphematory equivalent of the Sanctus ("Heaven and earth are full of thy glory"). Likewise the Conclusion, which speaks of the majesty of death, is the sacrilegious counterpart of Libera me. It is interesting to note, by the way, that the Conclusion is a direct polemical response to the finale of the oratorio by Penderecki that we mentioned earlier, at the end of which an excerpt from Paul Valéry's poem Le Cimetière marin (The Churchyard by the Sea) is heard: the fateful last words "Let us try to live".

Following this pattern, O Delvig, Delvig! replaces the Benedictus, which is traditionally the brightest part of the Mass, since it is dedicated to the glorification of the Holy Spirit – and sin against the Holy Spirit is the only sin that cannot be forgiven "either in this age or in the age to come" (see Matthew 12: 30-32). It is not just a coincidence therefore that this movement is the only one completely free from the negativism that permeates the rest of the Symphony.

Source: CD Booklet | Translation: Mary Pardoe

More photos

See also

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.6 in B minor, "Pathétique" – MusicAeterna, Teodor Currentzis (Download 96kHz/24bit & 44.1kHz/16bit)

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D major | Igor Stravinsky: Les Noces – Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Nadine Koutcher, MusicAeterna, Teodor Currentzis (Download 96kHz/24bit)

Dmitri Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No.1 in E flat major, & Symphony No.1 in F minor | Benjamin Britten: Sinfonietta, Op.1 – Steven Isserlis, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Teodor Currentzis (HD 1080p)

Dmitri Shostakovich – All the posts