posted by James Reel
Sorry for the late notice--I prepared this schedule a month ago, then applied my feeble mind to other things and forgot all about it--but our music schedule for the morning of February 10 marks the 175th anniversary of the death of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. I don't usually "celebrate" necrologies, saving the special programming for birth anniversaries in multiples of 25, but the anniversary of Pushkin's death gives us a rare excuse to showcase the music, famous and obscure, inspired by his work.
(If you look Pushkin up and see references to his death date being Jan. 29, that's because Russia was still using the old, unreformed calendar at that time; in Europe and America, the date that day in 1837 was Feb. 10.)
We're beginning around 7:30 a.m. with a snippet from Shostakovich's score for an animated adaptation of Pushkin's "Tale of a Priest and His Servant Balda. Then we'll have a polonaise "in memory of Pushkin" by Liadov. And then we're into far more famous music: suites from Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan and Le Coq d'Or and Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov for starters. These are among the best-known stage adaptations of Pushkin's work, as is Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. We'll have a full two hours of Onegin music between 9 and 11, including the most significant orchestral pieces and arias from Tchaikovsky's opera, bracketed by piano concert paraphrases of the opera's themes by Franz Liszt and Paul Pabst.
After that will come a miniature drawn from Stravinsky's treatment of Mavra, followed by a string of pieces inspired by The Queen of Spades: excerpts from the Tchaikovsky opera, of course, but also something you may not have connected with Pushkin: the overture to Suppe's operetta Pique Dame.
Beyond that, a suite from Gliere's ballet The Bronze Horseman and about 15 minutes of orchestral music and an aria from Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa (Liszt's orchestral and piano treatments of the Mazeppa story were inspired by a source other than Pushkin, so we won't be hearing those today).
We'll wrap up the Pushkin celebration between 11 and noon with one of Prokofiev's Pushkin Waltzes, the overture to Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmilla, orchestral bits from Rachmaninov's early opera Aleko, and Rimsky's little one-act opera adapting a Pushkin story, Mozart and Salieri.
So, we'll be giving a literary context for some music whose background you may not have given much thought. I hope you enjoy it.