Music at St Thomas’
Date: Friday 29th June 2018
Time: 1pm -1.45pm
Venue: St Thomas Church
Location: St Thomas Road Brentwood CM14 4DF
Artists: Krassimira Jeliazkova - violin;
Elizabeth Mucha - piano
Sergei Rachmaninov Deux Morceaux de salon
Pantcho Vladiguerov, Song from “Bulgarian Suite”
Karol Szymanowski Paganini Caprice Op 40, No 24
Theme and Variations
Igor Stravinsky Divertimento from “The fairy’s kiss”
Pas de Deux
Leonard Bernstein West Side Story Suite
arr. Raimundo Penaforte
I feel pretty
From Eastern Europe with love
Eastern Europe has held a fascination for the West for many centuries. The glittering court of St Petersburg of the 1800s attracted musicians and composers as diverse as Clara and Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, John Field, Louis Spohr, and singer Pauline Viardot. However, after the Russian Revolution of 1917, Russia’s greatest talent abandoned the mother country seeking freedom to pursue their art in the West.
In this programme, we pay homage to composers whose origins were in Eastern Europe rather like our own! Violinist Krassimira Jeliazkova was born and bred in Bulgaria and although I was born in Scotland my ancestry is entirely Polish.
Possibly one of Russia’s most famous musical emigrés of the 20th century, pianist and composer Sergei Rachmanivov composed his only original work for violin and piano in 1893, only one year after graduating from the Moscow Conservatory and many years before he was forced to leave Russia in 1917 because of the October Revolution. ‘Deux Morceaux de Salon’ may be a youthful work, but there is no mistaking the long sweeping melodies and rich harmonies which are pure Rachmaninov.
On the other hand, Bulgarian composer, Pantcho Vladiguerov is still little known outside his home country. Born in Switzerland of Bulgarian parents, he studied in Berlin and later became music director of the Deutsches Theatre there. He returned to Sofia in 1932 to become a professor of piano at the State Academy, now named after him. Like so many East European composers of that generation, he was greatly influenced by the folk music still to be heard readily then and composed several works which incorporated folk elements. The Polish composer Karol Szymanowski was another composer who fell under the spell of the music of the ‘Górale’, the Highlanders of Poland, in his later years. However, his transcription of Paganini’s Solo Caprice no 24 was composed in 1918 at a time when his inquisitive nature led him to explore the cultures of the Mediterranean coupled with a need to create repertoire to perform with his many violinist friends.
Considered to be one of the most influential and important composers of the 20th century, Igor Stravinsky, like Rachmaninov, arrived in the West thanks to the Russian Revolution. When the national borders closed due to the outbreak of World War 1 he and his family were left stranded in Switzerland and would not be able to return to Russia till 1962. Both he and Rachmaninov worshipped Tschaikovsky and in 1928, when Stravinsky was asked to compose a ballet inspired by Tchaikovsky’s music he jumped at the challenge. The ballet, ‘The Fairy’s Kiss’ was to be produced in November 1928, on the thirty-fifth anniversary of Tchaikovsky’s death. He very quickly created a scaled down concert suite of the ballet which has since been adapted for violin and piano.
The hugely popular music from the Musical, ‘West Side Story’, by American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein ends this lunchtime concert. Descended from Ukrainian Jews, Bernstein’s music though seemingly apparelled in American boldness, often reveals his sensitivity to his East European roots which are never too deeply hidden. “West Side Story”, heard here in a transcription by Brazilian arranger, Raimundo Penaforte must surely sum up the quintessential story of all those who have ever attempted to make a home in a foreign land.