00:41:46 II. Mankind
01:33:45 III. Transfiguration
Alexei Lubimov, piano
Thomas Trotter, organ
Anna-Kristiina Kaappola, soprano
Ernst Senff Chor
St Peterburg Chamber Choir
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Mystery surrounds Mysterium. It is a work that was left unfinished by Aleksandr Scriabin. He started working on this composition in 1903 but kept it incomplete until his death twelve years later. He wanted this work to be performed in a synesthetic concert stage which gave the sensation of smell, touch and hearing. He wanted the spectators to participate. The intention on the core sheet was to include a large orchestra, a mixed choir and a wind machine along with a projector that gave out visual effects. He also wanted dancers with rhythmic articulation. He also wanted incense to be burnt all around the performing enclosure. It was his intention that the work should be first performed in the Himalayan foothills in Tibet with the help of lights and mists to give substance to the architectural contour. At the time of Scriabin's death, seventy two pages were completed of this composition. Aleksandr Nemtin spent twenty eight years after the death of Scriabin to reform the sketches and convert it into a work than spanned almost here hours. It was recorded eventually. This is a great version by Ashkenazy and the Berlin orchestra.
The Nazis stole many art pieces during the Second World War and hid them at isolated places. The intention was to make a Museum for Hitler. This film is about art scholars, historians and architects who are past their prime in life. They build a unit and volunteer to retrieve as many of the European masterpieces as they can lay their hands on. The mission takes on an urgency when they learn about the `Nero Decree' taken out by Adolf Hitler and this decree ordered the destruction of all these artworks if the Third Reich fell. These people are caught in a race against time and they risk their lives to get back some of the greatest achievements of mankind back to their rightful places.
There is an excellent background score given by Alexandre Desplat. He has turned out another brilliant score recently for `The Imitation Game'. Excellent fifth directorial venture by George Clooney. He started with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind in 2002. His last film was The Ides of March. Clooney puts in a good performance and he is very well supported by Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett. Some people felt that the film is light-hearted for the subject it is covering but this very fact does not take anything from this engrossing tale even if it looks like Oceans Eleven going into the heart of the Second World War inferno.
Richard Wagner was inspired by nature for Tannhauser as in the case of the Flying Dutchman. When Wagner visited Wartburg in April 1842, he spent many months near a mountain ridge which he called `Horselberg'. This is where he completed most of this opera. This work was originally labelled as 'Der Venusberg'. It was changed in 1845 to 'Tannhauser und der Saugerkrieg auf der Wartburg'. He revised the score a couple of years later and changed the finale among many other things that included the addition of Venus and the funeral procession for the departed Elisabeth instead of a mere announcement of her death and it came to be known as the Dresden edition. It was revised once again in March 1861 and it came to be considered as the Paris version. The difference between these versions is that the initial two scenes were expanded through a Bacchanale with a pantomime written on a large scale. It also called for a ballet in the second act. Walther's song was also added in the second act. The Paris version brought out a nice contrast between the chromatic and the diatonic. The use of incidental music and choruses is also unique in this opera. It is surprising to note that Tannhauser was performed for the first time in Bayreuth in 1891.
This performance took place in July 1994 during he opera festival of the Bavarian State at the Munich national Theater. This is a modern staging of Wagner's opera. It is a deeply passionate performance by Zubin Mehta but it will fall in line after Sir Georg Solti's Paris version, Wilhelm Furtwangler and Sir Colin Davis' interpretations. Must have been exciting for the people who attended this Munich Opera Festival.
TCHAIKOVSKY IN AMERICA
New York City had a concert hall built by Andrew Carnegie in May 1891. It became the biggest venue for a classical concert in the city. Music festivals were held and in the initial season, Tchaikovsky was invited. These are notes from his diary written to his brother, Modeste, “I was accorded a very warm welcome here with the local papers all running my portraits and writing stories about me. Looks like I’m even more popular here than in Europe. I’m a big shot here, I really am… There are things people in Moscow have hardly heard about while here in America they are played and written about several times a year. Take, for example, my overture to Hamlet, which they never once played in Moscow and which is very well known in America…”
Tchaikovsky was touched by the hospitality shown to him in the New World. “The Americans are absolutely amazing!” he wrote. “Their sincerity, generosity, friendliness and desire to please are absolutely out of this world! Nowhere but in Russia have I ever seen so much love for foreigners.”
The New York Philharmonic Society held a dinner to honour Tchaikovsky and the composer was impressed by the general attention he got. “The list of the treats literally went forever. Halfway through the dinner they served ice cream in special boxes complete with pencils and small wooden plaques featuring excerpts from my music elegantly handwritten on them. I was supposed to put my signature on them too,”.
On 5th May, the opening night's program featured music by Beethoven, Berlioz and Tchaikovsky who personally conducted his music. The moment the final chord ended, there was a deafening applause. Tchaikovsky got a standing ovation.
“Tchaikovsky is a tall, gray-haired and well built man of about 60,” The New York Herald wrote. "He looks a bit embarrassed as he returns the ovation with short and brisk bows. The moment he picks up the baton and starts conducting, however, his confidence is back and he steers the orchestra with a firm hand…” . In his interviews, Tchaikovsky talked about how he loved America and New York City with its fast moving lifestyle, architecture and a penchant for new things.
“Tchaikovsky’s second appearance at the festival was as successful as the first time and the Symphony Society orchestra had never played the way it did that night… Mr. Tchaikovsky is a courageous and inspired conductor, driven, confident and magnetic and he made the orchestra into a very special organism playing with clockwork precision. No one has ever been able control the orchestra the way Tchaikovsky does…”. The newspapers were full of rave accounts about Tchaikovsky’s performance.
On His birthday on 7th May and then again on 15th May, the first piano concerto was played by Adele Aus der Ohe. “Tchaikovsky’s concerto is one of the finest in modern music,” eulogized The Evening Sun newspaper. It is replete with expressive melody lines and fresh orchestral effects. Miss Aus der Ohe and Mr. Tchaikovsky got big kudos and a standing ovation this hall had never seen before. The Americans realized once again that Tchaikovsky’s participation was the biggest highlight of the whole festival…” Once the concerts were over, Tchaikovsky visited the Niagara Falls.
While returning back on the sea liner, Tchaikovsky admired the Statue of Liberty. He was not aware that this would be his only voyage across the Atlantic to the New World. He was dead within a couple of years.
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