Daniel Raiskin was raised in St Petersburg by a prominent musicologist. He attended music school from the age of six and went on to study at the celebrated conservatoire in his native city where he focused on the viola and conducting. Inspired to take up the baton after an encounter with the distinguished teacher Lev Savich, he chose to make a gradual transition into a conducting career. At the age of twenty, Daniel Raiskin left the Soviet Union to continue his studies in Amsterdam and Freiburg. He soon became recognised as one of the most versatile conductors of the younger generation. Raiskin, who cultivates a broad repertoire, often looks beyond the mainstream in his strikingly conceived programmes. Since 2005, Daniel Raiskin has been the Chief Conductor of the Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie in Koblenz, and for several years he held the same title with the Artur Rubinstein Philharmonic Orchestra in the Polish city of Łódz.
Ksenija Sidorova from Riga, Latvia, started to play the accordion at the age of eight under the tutelage of Marija Gasele. She completed her undergraduate studies, in London, at the Royal Academy of Music under Owen Murray. She also received a Master’s Degree with Distinction. In 2009 Ksenija made her debut at London’s Wigmore Hall and appeared in the Park Lane Group Young Artists Showcase. In May 2012 she became the first International Award winner of the Bryn Terfel Foundation. She is a recipient of the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Martin Musical Scholarship, the Friends of the Philharmonia Award, and the Worshipful Company of Musicians Silver Medal, Ksenija has just been appointed a Junge Wilde Artist by the Konzerthaus Dortmund.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed Le Nozze di Figaro, (The Marriage of Figaro) in 1786. It was first performed in Vienna's Burgtheater in May of 1786, and again in Prague early the following year. The composer conducted from the keyboard. Figaro is an opera buffa, a comic opera with an Italian text which continues the story begun in The Barber of Seville. The piece was the first of Mozart's three collaborations with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, along with Don Giovanni and Così fan Tutte. The overture which was composed last, a typical practice of Mozart, is not a customary full-length Sinfonia in several sections, but rather a single Presto. Described as fleet, witty, and biting in its humour, the piece does not quote themes from the opera nor does it end by quoting the opening. The composer used the same logic in the overtures to Abduction from the Seraglio, Così fan Tutte, and The Magic Flute.
Astor Piazzolla was born in Mar del Plata, located on the Atlantic coast of Argentina. He migrated to New York with his family as a child and grew up on the Lower East Side. 'The first bandoneón that I had my Papá gave me when I was eight years old,' Piazzolla recalled, 'He brought it wrapped in a box, and I was happy, believing that it was the skates that I had asked for many times… In place of the skates I encountered an apparatus that I had never seen in my life. Papá sat himself on a chair, placed the thing between my arms, and said to me: "Astor, this is the instrument of the tango, I want you to learn to play it." My first reaction was to complain. The tango was the music that he listened to almost every night when he returned from work, and which I did not like.'
The bandoneón is an instrument of German origin, a button accordion invented by Heinrich Band in the 1840s and brought to South America in the great wave of immigration. The South American rendition has 71 buttons arranged in patterns that are difficult to master for anyone used to keyboard instruments. Piazzolla was 16 years old when his family returned to Argentina, and he was soon working in tango orchestras. In 1944, he was studying composition with Ginastera, so he left the Troilo band and formed the Orquesta del 46, to play his own compositions. A symphony he composed in 1954 for the Buenos Aires Philharmonic earned him a scholarship to study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger.
Aconcagua, written 1979, was named for the highest Andean mountain. The work displays a wealth of colour and energy, and even a slight Stravinskian feel. It is a virtuosic concerto composed in three movements in the classical fast-slow-fast nature. The soloist enters immediately with a vivacious tango, bolstered by harp and percussion. The second movement features solo bandoneón, later joined by the harp in duet. The finale is based on a danceable, streetwise tango. At the end, Piazzolla adds a section labelled Melancolico Final, a tender melodic tango that dissolves into a final fury of rhythm.
Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his Fifth Symphony, between April and June 1937. Its first performance was given on November 21, 1937, in Leningrad, by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Yevgeny Mravinsky. In 1937 Russia was at the height of Stalin’s purges, and the Communist Party had strongly denounced Shostakovich’s most recent works. Josef Stalin publicly reproved Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in the essay published in Pravda daily in January of 1936. This immediately turned Shostakovich into 'musical public enemy number one'. The reactionary curriculum vitae that Shostakovich then wrote for the December 1936 edition of La revue musicale, thus ended with an orthodox Stalinist statement of his commitment to 'the development of socialism in my country'.
Unsure of its reception under intense criticism, the composer had rejected his Fourth Symphony premiering instead the Fifth Symphony, servilely subtitled 'A Soviet Artist's Response to Just Criticism'. The piece displays lyricism, a heroic tone and inspiration from Russian literature. However, it is widely accepted that a subtext of critical despair exists beneath the favourable melodies. There were a few negative criticisms of the symphony that pointed to unresolved tensions in the Finale. However, the overwhelming consensus was positive and presumed the composer’s imminent rehabilitation and recognition. Soviet and Russian cellist and conductor, Mstislav Rostropovich, reportedly believed that the piece would have gotten Shostakovich killed if not for the thunderous response of the listeners. By virtue of its 'simplified' language, Shostakovich had signalled to the Party that a significant rehabilitation had occurred, but had the composer outsmarted Stalin or simply delivered what he wanted?
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator