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Tagged with 'Vladimir Jurowski'

Work of the Week – Hans Werner Henze: The Bassarids

With almost every opera house and concert hall around the world closed, we focus this week on a recent production of Hans Werner Henze´s opera The Bassarids, currently available for free on the online platform OperaVision. Reviews of Barrie Kosky´s staging and Vladimir Jurowski´s musical direction were splendid so this is a fantastic opportunity to explore the depths of this opera, considered a pinnacle of not only Henze´s dramatic output but of the entire mid-century classicism in opera.

The libretto for The Bassarids, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is based on Euripides’ Bacchae; it tells the story of Pentheus, the new ruler of Thebes, banning the cult of Dionysus before being unwittingly drawn into the revelry by Dionysus himself, disguised as a stranger. Pentheus is eventually killed by his own mother, who has mistaken him for a wild animal, before Dionysus reveals his true identity and demands adoration from the Thebans for his revenge against the tyrant. The one-act opera’s large instrumentation and sophisticated libretto make The Bassarids an ambitious project. With Dionysus and Pentheus embodying two extremes of human existence, there is great potential for reference to the present day.

Today I consider The Bassarids, which I now understand to a far greater degree and hold much dearer than when I was composing the work, to be my most important music theatre work. It is […] still relevant for us, but specifically addresses questions associated with the years around 1968: what is freedom and what is bondage? What is repression, what is revolt and what is revolution? This is all in fact demonstrated, insinuated and suggested by Euripides. The multiplicity and richness of relationships, the tangible sensual relationships between the ancient civilisation of this Archaic period and our time are captured in Auden’s text; Euripides is transposed into our time in a manner which could not have been better achieved with the best possible stage production of the original Greek play, as we are constantly reminded of our distance from a different, long-gone civilisation. – Hans Werner Henze

The video will be available to stream on demand until 13 April and a final performance of the Komische Oper Berlin production is scheduled for 26 June.

photo: © Komische Oper Berlin / Monika Rittershaus

Work of the week – Modest Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov

On 7 June Ivo Van Hove’s new production of Modest Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov will begin at the Opéra Bastille in Paris. Vladimir Jurowski will conduct, Ildar Abdrazakov will sing the role of Boris Godunov, and stage design and costumes are by Jan Versweyveld and An D’Huys respectively.

Mussorgsky’s first version of Boris Godunov from 1869 (later termed the “original Boris”), was initially rejected by the Imperial Theatres’ Music Committee, particularly due to the absence of a representative female role. Mussorgsky amended and expanded the work substantially over the following three years, but even the “revised Boris”, premiered in 1874 in St Petersburg, was rejected by the state censoring authority for political reasons and disposed of in 1882. Further adaptations by Mussorgsky, along with subsequent orchestrations by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov and Dmitri Shostakovich, meant that the original Boris Godunov was long concealed from the public eye. It was only when a critical edition was published in 1928, based on the work of Pawel Lamm, that the opera could be performed in its first intended form. It is this critical edition that Schott’s own edition is based upon.

Modest Mussorgsky - Boris Godunov: a folk drama in music

 Mussorgsky’s opera is based on Alexander Pushkin’s work on the historical figure of Boris Godunov, starting with the murder of the rightful heir Tsarevich Dimitri, and Boris’ ascent to the throne. As the new Tsar he takes charge of Russia during a famine, and despite his honest efforts to help the starving population of Russia, the country’s fate remains uncertain. Ultimately, it is the Russian people that become the central force to Boris Godunov, with impressive crowd scenes demonstrating the power they ultimately hold over the eponymous protagonist.
"To uncover the traits of human nature, wilfully delve into their unexplored depths, and conquer them  - that is the mission of a real artist. To new shores!" - Modest Mussorgsky

Following its opening night, eleven further performances of the opera will be staged at Opéra Bastille until 12 July 2018.


photo: Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse / Patrice Nin

Work of the Week – Valentin Silvestrov: Symphony No 3

The London Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates Valentin Silvestrov’s 80th birthday with the UK premiere of his Symphony No. 3 (“Eschatophony”) at Royal Festival Hall on 27 September with conductor Vladimir Jurowski.

Silvestrov was 15 when he began teaching himself the craft of composition. While studying engineering in Kiev, he continued his musical education in the evenings, eventually winning the Koussevitzky Prize at the age of 30. However, he was expelled from the Composers’ Union of the USSR shortly after for embracing the “Kiev Avantgarde” movement.

During this period, Silvestrov experimented with significant contrasts in his compositions. Symphony No. 3 is one such example, featuring interactions between complex rhythms and free improvisation. It was this rejection of traditional forms and structures that led to his works being banned in his home country of Ukraine, though they achieved great success in Europe and America.

Symphony No. 3 by Valentin Silvestrov: Music from the beginning of a new world

The subtitle “Eschatophony” is a neologism fusing eschatology, the area of theology concerned death, judgment and the final destiny of the soul, and the Greek word for sound, phoné, to lend a musical connotation.
According to [Silvestrov], everything already exists – everything has already been written. In order to understand this you have to think of the Lord Almighty. Everything has been created before, all you have to do is to listen to it carefully and call it up again. Then another thing begins to vibrate. It’s always been there but now we can feel its vibration and understand it as music. – Sofia Gubaidulina on Silvestrov’s understanding of music

A new world is created in every performance of Symphony No. 3 as the score is peppered with instructions such as “chromatic cluster of indefinite size” or “atonal improvisation corresponding to the graphic model”. Improvised passages for the strings and percussion also occur in each of the three movements.

Further performances of Silvestrov’s works are planned around the world in honour of his 80th birthday on 30 September.  On 28 September Symphony No. 8 can be heard in the Sibelius Hall in Lahti, Finland played by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and John Storgårds; on 30 September and 1 October at the Kulturpalast Dresden, Serenade and Elegy for string orchestra will be performed by the Dresden Philharmonic conducted by Kirill Karabatis; on 27 October, Adelphi Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christopher Lyndon-Gee will present Postludium at the Adelphi University Performing Arts Center in New York; on 4 November Symphony No 4 and Postludium can be heard in Tokyo played by the NCTS Orchestra and Dennis Russell Davies; and on 11 November, the Svetlanov Orchestra and Vladimir Jurowski will perform Dedication in Moscow.

His publishers Belaieff and Schott Music send Valentin Silvestrov their warmest congratulations on this occasion.