Friday, 18 November 2011

I Remember the Magical Moment

Freshly subtitled for the 'Milestones of Russian Culture' lecture on 19th century music, the 'father of Russian literature' Alexander Pushkin and the 'father of Russian music' Mikhail Glinka join forces for a musical setting of Pushkin's lyric poetry (this performance - Yuri Gulaev, 1978)

A glimpse into the thriving, unofficial 'salon culture' of the early 19th century, whose poetry recitals and philosophical discussions helped to shape the Golden Age of Russian literature as well as the birth of Russian classical music, much like the later influence of the unofficial 'Samizdat' and 'Magnitizdat' cultures of the Soviet 1960s. Notice the simplicity of the piano accompaniment, designed for circulation by intimate salon performance, the subtle reference within this sentimental love song to Pushkin's enforced political exile in the countryside for his writings after the Decembrist revolution: - “the rebel storm's blast scattered the dreams of former times [...] in remoteness in gloomy isolation” - which gives the song a subversive political edge for his contemporaries, and, lastly, the harmony between the rhythms of the song and the musical rhythms of Pushkin's Russian.

The distinctive character of Russian prose played a huge role in shaping the aesthetics of Russian music, with a staggering 141 operas being based on the works of Pushkin alone. The most radical 19th century Russian composer Mussorgsky, in works like 'Marriage' and 'Night on a Bare Mountain', drew inspiration from Gogol's chaotic breaking of the rules of composition and jolting shifts of tone between poetic lyricism and farce - listen to his famous 'Night on a Bare Mountain', based on Gogol's St. John's Eve.

Click for more info on the 'Milestones in Russian Culture' evening course.

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