Stravinsky & Venice

August 04, 2010. London, Royal Albert Hall. BBC Prom No. 25.  I was in London last week and I could not resist my first time of this incredible and old-established musical happening (“The Proms” is an eight-week summer season of daily orchestral classical music concerts held annually in the Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington). The conceptual progression of the concert program was so intelligent:

J. S. Bach – Christmas oratorio, BWV 248 – Chorale ‘Ach mein herzliebes Jesulein’ (1734)
J.S. Bach – Canonic Variations on ‘Von Himmel hoch’, BWV 769 (1748)
J.S. Bach/I. Stravinsky – Chorale Variations on ‘Von Himmel hoch’, BWV 769 (arr. 1956)
I. Stravinsky – Threni (1958)

The arrangement of Bach’s variations (deserved round of applause for the organist David Hyde!) was originally made as a companion piece for Canticum sacrum (1955), Stravinsky’s first piece (premiered in Venice) to contain a movement entirely based on a tone row, “Surge, aquilo”. Even though I might have considered myself lucky enough, Threni (commissioned from the director of Venice Biennale) was actually my personal good reason for not missing out this outstanding concert. As in Berg’s Concerto, when the dodecaphonic magma surprisingly merges into occasional tonal flashes (such as in “Perceiving Hope” from De Elegia Tertia or in De Elegia Quinta) it’s like gasping relief after surfacing from the abyss. Really uplifting. Although the confused acoustics of the Albert Hall (in spire of the recent optimization) didn’t justice to the meek performance by BBC Singers, soloists and the London Sinfonietta with Atherton conducting, I greatly enjoyed the concert and the serious cultural commitment by British people and institutions. Italy should learn a thing or two…


About epogdous

I'm an italian student of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology in Sapienza University of Rome. Dispite my scientific interests (which range from structural biology to immunology, etc.) I cultivate a deep passion for classical music and in general for musicology. As a teen I studied the flute but basically I'm a self-taught pianist and composer. I'm well-acquainted with the music of 1850-1950 era. I generally don't like to say I have preferences for some composer in particular but I can't deny that Ralph Vaughan Williams and Charles Ives hold a great fascination to me. I think that the common message of their music is the transcendentalist precept "low living, high thinking".
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