Gidon Kremer (violin)
Mate Bekavac (clarinet)
Arvo Paert (1935)
“Fratres” for violin, string orchestra, and percussion
Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996)
Chamber Symphony No. 4, op. 153 for clarinet, triangle, and string orchestra
“RUSSIA: MASKS & FACES” (pieces to be performed without a break)
Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
“Serenade melancolique” (arr. for violin and string orchestra by L. Desyatnikov)
Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)
“Pictures at an Exhibition” (arr. for string orchestra by J. Cohen and A. Pushkarev)
Valentin Sylvestrov (1937)
Serenade for violin solo
*Russia: Masks and Faces
Music often seems to relate to images.
Images inspire composers and somehow help audiences to “understand” what they hear.
The concert program that we are presenting here began as a project which brought Kremerata Baltica and myself together with a wonderful painter and writer, Maxim Kantor. Taking Mussorgsky’s great work as our starting point, we “converted” his famous “pictures” into “pictures from a different exhibition.”
Even in a “music only” presentation, the concept of the image is not lost. As the sounds reach out to the audience, each listener puts together his or her own “exhibition” in response.
For us, the images that came to mind as we developed our concept relate first to the situation in Russia and then to the broader world situation and the social and political problems of the present. Not even artists can ignore the problems that surround us. We are part of the world in which we live.
”Russia: Masks and Faces” is therefore not just about one ongoing issue, one country. It offers a point from which we can begin to consider many issues that are present in the world around us.
Our primary focus was on the effect that a totalitarian regime has on all those who are doomed to live under it. At the same time we looked at the tensions and injustice that are part of our everyday environment. All of us are aware to some degree of the problems and distress that people have faced – and still face – under dictatorships. The situation has not changed.
To quote the famous 19th century poet Fyodor Tyutchev, Russia as a country “can’t be understood with the mind – in Russia you can only believe.” It is therefore easily “translated” into something “mysterious”. Another view – expressed by a contemporary Russian writer, Viktor Erofeev – is that “it simply doesn’t want to be understood”!
Nowadays, politics in Russia is revealing the dark sides of that nation’s famous “soul.” Although its citizens are often praised for their generosity and warm-heartedness, Russia is in the process of losing its finest qualities (as expressed in works by Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Anton Chekhov, Alexander Scriabin, Sergei Rachmaninov, Boris Pasternak, Anna Akhmatova and many other leading figures of the past). Nurtured by pseudo-patriotism and an insatiable desire for power, politicians and politics are unveiling an ugly face by permanently lying to the world and to their own people.
In order to be true to the essence of their art, musicians are probably best advised to avoid taking part in such developments. However, we cannot credibly deny that a certain “brainwashing” is taking place and that manipulation of the mass media is encouraging the Russian people to lend their support to the most insane doctrines, radically dividing the society into believers and disbelievers, into supporters and enemies.
As we developed the original project, it was never our intention for the sound and the visuals to become an “illustration” of each other; what really mattered to us was to achieve a balance between them. Nor was the aim to take part in a kind of “crossover” project. Each facet of the project was allowed to develop its full potential as we progressed along the path set by Mussorgsky’s original score.
Music is by nature designed to open hearts, to seek a dialogue. By not looking for “illustrations”, we can set our imagination free to invent its own stories and references. They are all valid. Interpretations by any listener can be as daring as possible – there are no limits. The original titles of the pictures in Mussorgsky’s “exhibition” might serve as a kind of anchor, giving everyone something to hold on to. However, the music is allowed to flow freely, not bound by the words, and thus has the ability to transport us to more distant places.
I believe that we musicians have plenty to share – our despair, our joy and our hope – as we pursue our calling to serve the great creators of the past and those living among us today.
Our project is multilayered. Two serenades – the one, based on a work by Tchaikovsky, is full of melancholy while the other is a meditation by contemporary Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov – join “forces” with Mussorgsky’s chef d’oeuvre and help us to discover more about ourselves.
We invite you to embark on a fulfilling journey of unexpected discoveries as you travel through familiar sounds. Like the special instrumentation which we have created and premiered, they are intended to transform our outlook and our attitudes to life.