Thursday, 24 September 2009

Toast to Stalin

Goldsmiths College is giving us a rare chance to hear Prokofiev's cantata Toast to Stalin (Здравица). Soviet national radio commissioned Prokofiev to write it as a 60th birthday present for the tyrant in 1939 and he must have had mixed feelings after after the different fates of Alexander Nevsky (a triumph - albeit temporary) and the Cantata on the 20th Anniversary of the Revolution (undeservedly, a catastrophe). Neverthless he managed to select texts (in that Soviet neologistic oxymoron, 'modern folk poems') that spend most of the time discussing the people's happiness rather than praising the man directly. It also contains a couple of hilarious fingers in the pocket.

Also on the programme is Gubaidulina's piano concerto, Introitus. While its not terribly virtuosic, it is very intense and typical of her late 1970s/early 1980s work: rich with personal religious symbolism (that listeners might not even pick up on) and extremely contemplative (there's a lot of wondering how many ways you can play an F sharp).

Between the two is a suite from Korngold's first film, Max Reinhardt's A Midsummer Night's Dream (1934). Just as the Nazis had been unable to unlink the play from Mendelssohn's music so Rheinhardt always intended to use it. It was just a question of who would edit it. Actually it was hardly a question - Rheinhardt had known Korngold since they met at the premiere of Mahler's Eighth Symphony in Munich in 1910 and Rheinhardt had no intention of taking the studio's suggestion of Franz Waxman. In the end Korngold added some bits of Mendelssohn's other works including the Scottish Symphony and orchestrations of some Songs without Words.

Much as I love Haydn, this isn't really the place to discuss him.

The programme in full:

Haydn: Symphony No 101 (Clock)
Gubaidulina: Introitus*
Korngold: Midsummer Night's Dream (suite from the film).** UK premiere.
Prokofiev: Toast to Stalin***

Drosostalitsa Moraiti (piano)*
Casey Evans (soprano)**
Goldsmiths Chorus***
Goldsmiths Sinfonia, conductor Alexander Ivashkin

2 October 2009, 19.00

The Great Hall
Richard Hoggart Building
Goldsmiths College

Tickets are £7; £5 (concs) and £3 (Goldsmiths students)

Further details are here.

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