Classical Spree 17-18

27.TCHAIKOVSKY’S CELEBRATED PIANO CONCERTO

27.TCHAIKOVSKY’S CELEBRATED PIANO CONCERTO

SEASON PARTNER

Maison symphonique de Montréal

On the heels of his resounding success in Montreal last November, pianist Alexei Volodin returns to the OSM and Kent Nagano. Regarded as one of the outstanding pianists of his generation, Volodin this time brings his masterful technique and musical refinement to a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto no. 1. One of the most beloved works in the piano repertoire, the concerto had to be staunchly defended by the Russian composer who, when challenged to revise it, pledged, “I shall not change a single note!”

 

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SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 1 2018

7:40 PM

Orchestre symphonique de Montréal

Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
Kent Nagano, conductor
Alexei Volodin, piano

Fauré, Pavane, op.50 (8 min.)
Tchaikovsky, Piano Concerto No. 1 (38 min.)

Programme Notes:

The pavane is a stately dance in duple meter with origins in the 16th century, often associated with the spread of the peacock’s tail. Fauré’s Pavane, composed in 1887, contributes to this tradition with the full force of the composer’s lucid, lyrical, and contemplative style. The work opens on an elegant, bittersweet melody with pizzicato accompaniment and broadly maintains this nostalgic, melancholy tone. The subtle orchestral colours and poised harmonies of this short piece greatly impressed both Debussy and Ravel, who would go on to write his own Pavane.

Tchaikovsky’s orchestral works are also known for their nostalgic, melancholy character, but his piano music often reveals more cheerfulness alongside the same touching authenticity. Tchaikovsky wrote his passionate First Piano Concerto with the pianist Nikolai Rubinstein in mind, but when Rubinstein heard the Concerto for the first time, his response was devastating. Rubinstein’s tirade is described in Tchaikovsky’s correspondence – everything about the Concerto was unsalvageable, the whole piece was “worthless, completely unplayable.” But Tchaikovsky did not give up hope, and in the end Hans von Bülow, who had nothing but praise for the composition, gave the 1875 Boston premiere. Rubinstein eventually came around, and his Paris performance of the Concerto in 1878 was an immense success.

 

After a majestic introduction in the relative major key, the opening Allegro presents an opening theme derived from Ukrainian folk-song and a lyrical second subject full of Tchaikovsky’s unique melodic magic. This first movement features dramatic dialogue between soloist and orchestra and a brilliant cadenza. The sweet, elegant outer sections of the Andantino semplice highlight a lyrical, lilting theme introduced by the flute. The prestissimo middle section, on the other hand, is based on a French song called “Il faut s’amuser et rire” (We must have fun and laugh) and shows the composer’s joyful and light-hearted side. The opening of the Finale betrays the influence of folk song once again, and the Concerto ends with a sweeping epilogue that recalls its magnificent opening measures.

© Ariadne Lih, 2018

Kent Nagano

Kent Nagano has established an international reputation as one of the most insightful and visionary interpreters of both the operatic and symphonic repertoire. He is Music Director of the OSM since 2006. Maestro Nagano was General Music Director of the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich from 2006 to 2013. He became Principal Guest Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in 2013. Since 2015, he has been General Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Hamburg State Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra. Born in California, Kent Nagano spent his early professional years in Boston, working in the opera house and as Assistant Conductor to Seiji Ozawa at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He was Music Director of the Opéra national de Lyon (1988-1998), Music Director of the Hallé Orchestra (1991-2000), Associate Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (1990-1998) and Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (2000-2006) and remains their Honorary Conductor. Kent Nagano was also the first Music Director of the Los Angeles Opera (2003-2006). As a much sought-after guest conductor, Maestro Nagano has worked with the Berlin, New York and Vienna Philharmonics, Chicago Symphony, Dresden Staatskapelle and Leipzig Gewandhaus, and at leading opera houses including the Opéra national de Paris, Berlin State Opera, Metropolitan Opera and Semperoper Dresden. He has won two Grammy awards for his recording of Kaija Saariaho’s L’amour de loin with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester and for Busoni’s Doktor Faust, recorded with the Opéra national de Lyon, among other awards. Maestro Nagano was named Commander of the Ordre de Montréal, Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec, Companion of the Ordre des arts et des lettres du Québec, and he was decorated with the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal. 

Recent recordings with the OSM: A Quiet Place (Decca, 2018); Danse macabre (Decca, 2016); L’Aiglon (Decca, 2015); Saint-Saëns, Moussa, Saariaho: Symphony and New Works for Organ and Orchestra (Analekta, 2015); Complete Violin Concertos of Saint-Saëns (Analekta, 2015). 

Recent tours with the OSM: Krakow and Salzburg (2018); United States (March 2016); China and Japan (October 2014); Europe (March 2014); and South America (April-May 2013).

Alexei Volodin

Acclaimed for his highly sensitive touch and technical brilliance, Alexei Volodin is in constant demand by several world-class orchestras. For the 2018–2019 season, Volodin is scheduled to perform once again with the OSM, NCPA Orchestra in Beijing, and BBC and Bournemouth symphony orchestras, and will be giving debut performances with the Gulbenkian Orchestra, Japan Century Symphony Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, and the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra. An active chamber musician, he enjoys a long-standing collaboration with the Borodin Quartet, with which he performs regularly. Volodin’s latest recording of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 4, conducted by Valery Gergiev, was released on the Mariinsky label. Born in 1977 in Leningrad, Alexei Volodin studied at Moscow’s Gnessin Academy and later with Eliso Virsaladze at the Moscow Conservatory. In 2001, he continued his studies at the International Piano Academy Lake Como and went on to garner international recognition following his first place standing at the International Géza Anda Competition in Zürich in 2003. Alexei Volodin is a Distinguished Steinway Artist.

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