Georges Bizet: Symphony in C major
Dmitri Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major
Modest Mussorgsky – Maurice Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition
This concert sweeps the audience from enchanting French Bohemianism to the dark, Stalinist Soviet Union and the magically grotesque atmosphere of Russian folk tales; our guide will be Israeli conductor Pinchas Steinberg.
Bizet, who grew up on Montmartre, was seventeen when he wrote his first symphony, in C major, as a simple school project. The piece, however, brimming with gestures and fresh momentum, has gone on to become far more than that. The composer kept it hidden in a drawer his entire life. Once it was discovered, it outshone the oeuvre of Bizet’s beloved master, Charles Gounod. Described by critics as “enchanting and charming,” the piece has become an important part of romantic line-ups.
Like Bizet, Shostakovich was a passionately devoted and highly skilled pianist. This concert, however, will feature a cello concerto, written for a friend and student of the Russian composer: Mstislav Rostropovich. The Concerto in E-flat major is one of the most difficult cello concert pieces in the world. It is a deep and personal confession, full of ambivalent emotions towards an unpredictable world (the Stalinist Soviet Union), where one never knows if one will awake as a hero or a scapegoat. The soloist for the piece, the Russian Alexander Kniazev, is regarded as a worthy successor to Rostropovich.
The concert will conclude with perhaps the most popular piece from yet another Russian composer. Mussorgsky’s music became truly great following its transformation by Ravel. His daring, contrary and challenging suite, Pictures at an Exhibition (1874) was written originally for piano, following the tragic death of his friend, the painter Viktor Hartmann. Mussorgsky was inspired by a commemorative exhibition of his good friend’s paintings. The music brings to life the figure of a fantastic gnome, an old castle, a cumbersome cart, chicks, market-goers and witches: Russian tales and colourful moods.