Lilya Zilberstein (piano) • conductor: Dmitri Kitayenko
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1 in F minor
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Pyotr Tchaikovsky: Francesca da Rimini: Symphonic Fantasy after Dante
Dmitri Kitayenko has been living in Western Europe for more than 25 years. These days he goes home only as a visitor, but he’s still an expert interpreter of Russian music. It is with this reputation that he’s returning to lead the BFO as they play Shostakovich’s First Symphony, Rachmaninoff’s rhapsody which he composed in exile, and Tchaikovsky’s romantic fantasy.
Shostakovich, considered one of the most significant symphony composers of the 20th century, was still in his teens when he made his first attempt at the genre, and it made quite a splash. Both witty and dramatic at the same time, the First Symphony (1924-25), his graduation piece, conquered the world almost immediately. Bruno Walter performed it in Berlin, while Stokowski played it in Philadelphia and New York. The work has remained a hit ever since.
While Shostakovich lived his whole life in Russia, Rachmaninoff elected to emigrate. The world-famous Russian pianist Lilya Zilberstein, like the conductor Dmitri Kitayenko, lives in Western Europe. It’s a situation which recalls Rachmaninoff’s more than a quarter of a century living and composing in Europe and the USA. The impressive and virtuoso Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1934) is the last piece he composed for piano and orchestra, and it flirts not only with the “fiddler of the devil” but also with death itself.
Passing from death into Hell: Tchaikovsky spent under three weeks in the autumn of 1876 writing his symphonic fantasy, which betrays signs of Liszt’s influence and took its theme from Dante’s Divine Comedy. Francesca, a noblewoman who falls in love with her husband’s brother, appears in the fifth canto of Inferno. The husband takes a cruel revenge by killing the lovers who, because of their adulterous passions, go to Hell as sinners against love and will never find peace.