The Annecy Classic Festival has become a major player in the national and international cultural landscape. In residence at the 2013 Annecy Classic Festival, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic closes the festival and joins forces with its iconic conductor Yuri Temirkanov. Together with multi-gifted musician Denis Matsuev, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra invites us on a journey, whose secret lies in Rachmaninov’s famous Piano Concerto No.2 and the Symphonic Dances. Denis Matsuev, the «Siberian Bear» as they call him, interprets the Piano Concerto No.2 virtuously and passionately. Yuri Temirkanov takes us on a journey through One Thousand and One Nights with a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s lush Sheherazade, with its intoxicating scents and the glowing, oriental colours.
Sheherazade (Scheherazade; Russian: Шехерезада), Op. 35, is a symphonic suite composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888. Based on The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, sometimes known as The Arabian Nights, this orchestral work combines two features common to Russian music and of Rimsky-Korsakov in particular: dazzling, colourful orchestration and an interest in the East, which figured greatly in the history of Imperial Russia, as well as orientalism in general. It is considered Rimsky-Korsakov's most popular work. The music was used in a ballet by Michel Fokine. This use of the music was denounced by the Rimsky-Korsakov estate, led by the composer's widow, Nadezhda Rimskaya-Korsakova.
His Tchaikovsky is often revelatory (none here, unfortunately), but all of that pales beside his quite extraordinary interpretation of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. No other version I have heard so clearly captures the rich sonority of this score, and makes the contrast between the fury of the elements and the beguiling sensuousness of the prince and his princess so achingly apparent.
Andris Nelsons is one of the most sought-after young conductors on the international scene today and once again served notice of his extraordinary talent in Summer 2011 when he conducted two concerts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam at the prestigious Lucerne Festival. This concert, available on DVD and Blu-ray features, amongst a programme of Rimsky-Korsakov, Beethoven and Dvořák, the Grammy Award-winning pianist Yefim Bronfman performing Beethoven’s majestic Fifth Piano Concerto and Chopin’s Etude in F major.
Opera lies at the heart of Rimsky-Korsakov’s colourful idiom, but performances are few and far between; this realisation of his penultimate and grandest stage work is a very rare and special experience. Kitezh is known as ‘the Russian Parsifal’, which encapsulates its mystical flavour and steady unfolding of a legend of redemption. A largely Russian cast (headed by the stunning Svetlana Ignatovich) and production team works within a set that moves from opulent naturalistic scenery to some startling theatrical coups worthy of Rimsky’s underrated dramatic instincts.
Rimsky-Korsakov epitomises the fantastic side of the Russian soul. Regarding opera as „essentially the most enchanting and intoxicating of lies,“ he drew on his country’s rich folk heritage to create a fairy-tale world in which the fanciful and commonplace were fused through extravagant orchestral virtuosity and fervently Romantic vocal writing. This Châtelet revival of Le Coq d’Or brings to the stage once again the great Kabuki actor Ennosuke III’s striking staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera first mounted in co-production with the San Francisco Opera in 1984. Born into one of Japan’s most important Kabuki families in 1939, Ennosuke III is a master of his art, who has worked to give this traditional theatre form appeal for modern audiences. As an actor, director and producer his aim has been to bring back the energy and excitement of Edo-period Kabuki. High-tech special effects, dynamic lighting, stunning costumes and minimalist sets have drawn new fans to his ‘Super Kabuki’ shows. He worked on this sumptuous production of Le Coq d’Or with an all-Japanese creative team and the result had an Oriental beauty and fascination entirely appropriate to this satirical fantasy opera. Completed in 1907, Le Coq d’Or, based on Pushkin’s 1834 poem, was Rimsky-Korsakov’s last opera.