Inspiration from Shakespeare

Tchaikovsky_1906_Evans

Tchaikovsky was a Shakespeare fan. If you don’t believe it, just consider the number of his works inspired by the Bard: Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasia, Hamlet Overture-Fantasia, Incidental music to Hamlet, and The TempestFantasia.

Shakespeare has always inspired composers, including Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Britten and Thomas Adès.

Tchaikovsky’s The Tempest was suggested by Vladimir Stassov. He gave Tchaikovsky an outline of the play, that served as the musical narrative. Tchaikovsky’s music evokes a stormy sea, the love between Miranda and Ferdinand, and the magic of Ariel.

Watch Gustavo Dudamel talk about his recording project featuring the Shakespearean works of Tchaikovsky, and don’t miss Kentucky Shakespeare’s performances this summer!

Classical Composers Steal the Show at Sochi

Olympic Rings

Every two years the international community is treated to the extravaganza of national pride that is the opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games. The Russian ceremonies last Friday in Sochi especially focused on the history of the host nation, told through the dreams  of a small girl (who was sometimes rather alarmingly suspended from the ceiling by wires). Russian literature and dance played a large part in the story, but it was the music that truly drove the program forward. With Russia’s rich musical traditions, there was no shortage of material to pull from, and the selection process must have been overwhelmingly difficult.

Music which did make the cut includes such quintessentially Russian pieces as the Polovtsian Dances from Borodin’s Prince Igor and Stravinsky’s ballets The Firebird and Rite of Spring. This year, the traditional Olympic symbol of doves was portrayed by bizarrely but beautifully lit dancers twirling to the music of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

Difficult as the musical selection for the artistic portion of the evening must have been, the choice of singers must have been a piece of cake. Soprano Anna Netrebko, perhaps the most internationally recognizable Russian singer, performed the Olympic Hymn to round out the musical evening.

The renowned conductor Valery Gergiev also made an appearance at the opening ceremonies as one of several prominent Russian citizens bearing the Olympic flag.

 

In the spirit of the season, here are two other great pieces by Russian composers that didn’t quite make the cut for the opening ceremonies.

Here’s part of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition led by Valery Gergiev:

 

And something from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade:

Teddy Abrams

teddy abrams

Teddy Abrams will be guest conducting the Louisville Orchestra for a program on September 26th, featuring Haydn’s Symphony No. 59, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Barber’s Second Essay. Classical 90.5′s Daniel Gilliam talked with Teddy about the music on Thursday’s program, about being involved in the orchestra’s community and how Thursday’s program came together.

Louisville Orchestra and Adele Anthony

Gil Shaham’s favorite violinist (for obvious reasons – they’re married), Adele Anthony, played the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Louisville Orchestra, earlier this month. The orchestra also performed Richard Strauss’ first tone poem Aus Italien and the overture to Verdi’s La forza del destino. Catch the broadcast this Sunday at 6pm.

Here are the two lovebirds playing with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Ten Nutcracker Facts

Before you head to see this year’s production of The Nutcracker (Louisville Ballet performances start 12/8), here are some enlightening facts about one of the most popular ballets.

1. Choreographer Marius Petipa micromanaged Tchaikovsky, dictating the tempos and number of bars in each movement of the score.

2. The premiere received mixed reviews. Dancers were called “pudgy” and “insipid” by one critic, and “charming” by another. The score was probably the most successful part of the production.

3. Tchaikovsky took a break from writing the music to visit the United States, where he conducted concerts to open Carnegie Hall.

4. Clocking in at around 85 minutes, the original version is shorter than Tchaikovsky’s other two well-known ballets: Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty.

5. An abridged suite of the music, containing about a third of the original numbers, was premiered in 1892 and was a hit.

6. The first full US performance took place on December 24, 1944, by the San Francisco Ballet.

7. E.T.A. Hoffman’s original tale is much darker and intended more for adults.

8. In the original tale by Hoffman, the main character is called Marie, not Clara as in the ballet.

9. Nutcrackers were first used in the 15th century, and were developed in rural Germany.

10. Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn arranged and recorded a jazz version of Tchaikovsky’s score in 1960 for Columbia Records. The “Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy” is changed to “Sugar Rum Cherry.”