Sergei Rachmaninoff: The Bells / Igor Stravinsky: Oedipus rex
Two great musical testimonies about human destiny.
The National TheatreApproximate running time
1 hour 50 minutes, 1 intermission 20 minutesPremiere
January 20, 2023
.. et al.
Sergei Rachmaninoff and Igor Stravinsky – two important representatives of the Russian musical emigration of the 20th century, two extraordinary vocal-symphonic works on the stage of the National Theatre.
The music of Sergei Rachmaninoff and Igor Stravinsky survived the hateful ideologies of the 20th century - both Communist and Nazi - and today it forms an unmistakable part of our common cultural heritage, even though it was once labelled as undesirable and meant to be forgotten.
Introducing these two works will remind us that the Russian musical tradition and culture has always been and is naturally related to the music and culture of the West, as well as how it was and still is, unfortunately, an artificial enmity sown between these two cultures for the purely non-cultural dictatorial goals of the leaders of the "Eastern Empire".
Rachmaninoff's magnificent romantic choral symphony The Bells for solos, mixed choir and orchestra represents a typical example of the fruitful intermingling of Russian and Western traditions in musical-literary practice. On the one hand, the author was inspired by the famous poem of the same name by E. A. Poe, in a free translation of the Russian symbolist poet (and, by the way, also an emigrant later on) Konstantin Balmont. And on the other hand, the influence of domestic Russian tradition is clearly heard in his musical stylization of the bells. Rachmaninoff wrote and premiered his Bells, presenting four different scenes, the atmosphere of which is determined each time by a different form of ringing, in 1913, while he was still in the Russian homeland.
The opera-oratorio Oedipus rex (King Oedipus) is one of the most famous compositions of the Russian, but later also the same work of the French and American musical reformer and visionary Igor Stravinsky. It was created already during the composer's emigration in 1927 in Paris and belongs to his so-called neoclassical period, in which, in contrast to his previous experiments, which were often very intense in sound, he deliberately resorted to clear, moderate expressions and forms inspired by the music of classicism and baroque. Oedipus rex, written to the text of the French playwright and poet Jean Cocteau based on the famous tragedy of Sophocles, really resembles a great baroque oratorio, telling in a noble tone and with a dignified expression, the story of man, his blinded pride and the inevitability of what is destined for him. Stravinsky's classicizing musical style is also supported here by the choice of the language in which it is sung - while the spoken passages of the Narrator are written in French and can be translated into other national languages, the singing text must always be in the original Latin when performing this work, as it is in old oratorios or masses.
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