Russia’s treatment of her composers and musicians always had some strings attached (no pun intended). For Rachmaninov, the Russian Revolution resulted in the loss of his estate, his livelihood and his lifestyle. Written during his conservatory years prior to his emigration, his String Quartet No. 1 is reminiscent of Tchaikovsky in its lyricism, beauty, and grace. Shostakovich’s music was the pride of Soviet Russia in his early years but was twice denounced and occasionally banned by the Stalinist government. His String Quartet No. 7 was composed in the same year that he joined the Communist Party and evokes struggle, conflict, and sarcasm. Stravinsky’s timings were more fortunate although not without hardships. His final move from Russia came just before the borders closed and he would not return to his homeland for 50 years, yet much of his music, including the 3 Pieces, reflects his cultural roots. As for Beethoven? He was commissioned by prince Andreas Razumovsky, then the Russian ambassador to Vienna, to compose the Op. 59 quartets and drew inspiration from Russian folk tunes.
Works to be performed on “The Russian Ambassador” program include:
Rachmaninov, String Quartet No. 1 (Unfinished)
Stravinsky, 3 Pieces for String Quartet
Shostakovich, String Quartet No. 7 in F sharp minor, Op. 108
Beethoven, String Quartet Op. 59, No. 1 in F major
Program offered June through August, 2011.