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The Night: Classical

Broadcast #1. Arthur Olof made almost a hundred programmes for the Concertzender about Russian music from the 20th century. Before his passing in 2014 he transformed the scripts of the broadcast into a book, which carries the title ‘De kunst om te overleven’ and will appear in June. Next to the text, it will have links to the site of the Concertzender, so that the reader can listen to the related music while reading. In preparation of this publication we make these night programmes.

At first, the Tchaikovsky competition only had awards for piano, violin and cello, but in 1966 singers were also allowed to qualify themselves. The Grand Prize for tenors went to Vladimir Atlantov.

  • Sheremetev – Ik hield van u
  • Gurilev – Rinkelbel
  • Nápravník – Dobrovský
  • Tchaikovsky – Aria from ‘Schoppenvrouw’

In 1966 poet Anna Akhmatova passed away. In response to her death Jelena Jangfeldt composed two songs.

  • Jangfeldt: Bij het eeuwfeest van Akhmatova
  • Jangfeldt – Verschrikkelijke schoonheid

In 1966 Dmitri Shostakovich composed his Eleventh String quartet among others, which he dedicated to the second violinist of the Beethoven Quartet, who had passed away.

  • Shostakovich – Eleventh String quartet

The composer Veniamin Basner was, reportedly, so shy, that Shostakovich asked him for a light, knowing that Basner wanted to ask him something. Basner didn’t only become his student, but they also became friends.

  • Basner – Fourth String quartet

“My dear Dodik,” Shostakovich wrote to violinist David Oistrakh, “I have composed a new violin concert and if you have nothing against it, I would like to dedicate it to you.” It was meant for Oistrakh’s sixtieth birthday, but it appeared to be a presumptuous gift. Oistrakh turned fifty-nine in 1967.

  • Shostakovich – Second Violin concert

“My dear Anna,” wrote composer Arthur Lourié in 1963 from the United States to his friend Anna Akhmatova, “my reputation has been lying in the gutter for twenty years, i.e. since I arrived here.” ‘The Funeral games in honour of Chronos’ was his last work.

  • Lourié – Funeral games in honour of Chronos

In the atheistic Soviet Union composing a Requiem was, enforced from above and, in particular in honour of the fallen military heroes and a lamentation to the horrors of the war. The Requiem of the Polish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg remained, however, untouched for thirteen years after his passing.

  • Weinberg – Requiem

Weinberg can be counted to the greater song composers of the last century, according to Arthur Olof. Thereof would also testify his cycle lullabies, which were set on poems by  Chilean Gabriela Mistral.

  • Weinberg – Lullabies

In the book ‘The art of survival’ a chapter is also dedicated to Boris Tchaikovsky (1925-1996). His compositions remained fairly unknown in the West. This probably has to do with the fact that his music doesn’t offer much new. Tchaikovsky (no family to Pyotr Ilyich) kept composing in the (originally nineteenth century) symphonic style of his predecessors and remained absent of the post-war musical developments — not so much under pressure from the powerful communist Composers union, but simply because he had little affinity with it. Although his youth work could easily have been composed seventy years earlier, Tchaikovsky did, however, develop his own style gradually, which doesn’t feel archaic and was popular in his own country.

  • B. Tchaikovsky – Sinfonietta for strings

It is suggested that Tchaikovsky simply kept a low profile and continued working within the system. But maybe it is not possible to describe life in the Soviet Union in Cold War terms. In 1965, Tchaikovsky put poems by Josef Brodsky (who then was already sentenced to five year forced labour because of ‘parasitism’) on music. The composition was forbidden for twenty years, but Tchaikovsky had shown whose side he was on.

  • B. Tchaikovsky – Poems of Josef Brodsky

Seven years later Tchaikovsky composed songs on texts of Pushkin. The composer would have stated that he had taken something from the Russian fin de siècle in the texts of Brodsky and then gladly drew on poetry from the beginning of that same nineteenth century.

  • B. Tchaikovsky – Seven songs on text of Pushkin

As an autonomous creative artist you could not or hardly exist in the time of the Soviet Union; royalties were collected by the Composers union. For that reason, almost all Soviet composers composed – next to a possible job as a composition teacher – film music. That’s how Boris Tchaikovsky made music for the TV adaptation of ‘The Youngling (Podrostok)’, the penultimate novel of Dostoyevsky in the beginning of the 1980’s. Subsequently Tchaikovsky transformed this score into a symphonic poem.

  • B. Tchaikovsky – The Youngling

In his last work, Tchaikovsky quotes one of his first compositions. In the first and third part of the Symphony with harp he makes use of the five preludes which he composed in 1936, when he was eleven, apparently from the need to give a cyclical close to his oeuvre.

  • B. Tchaikovsky – Symphony with harp

While the supremacy of the Soviet Union during the International Tchaikovsky competition normally was very high, the American prodigy Harvey Lavan Cliburn won in 1958. He decided then to close his winning performance with the Rondo of Dmitri Kabalevsky.

  • Kabalevsky – Rondo

In the fifth episode of ‘Alles ter nagedachtenis aan jou’ Arthur spoke about a revival of Jewish culture after the first uprising against the Tsar in 1905. In that so-called Jewish renaissance, a  family of Klezmer musicians, the Krein family, played a central role. Krein caused commotion.

  • Krein – Berceuse funèbre

As son of the Dutch violinist Theo Olof, Arthur spent a lot of attention to the diverse violin schools and famous violinists which Russia brought forth. In an episode that is dedicated to the students of Avram Jampolsky Arthur played a Violin concert of Sergei Lyapunov, played by Julian Sitkovetsky.

  • Lyapunov – Violin concert

The famous ballet producer Sergei Diaghilev quickly had to find an alternative for the Russian national anthem ‘God, save the Tsar’, with which every concert traditionally started, for a gala concert that was held after the February revolution of 1917. Stravinsky orchestrated for that reason quickly the ‘Song of the Volga towers, the song about the boerlaki, people who, for lack of horses, towed the ships through the Volga.

  • Stravinsky – Song of the Volga towers




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