Friday, April 4, 2008

Broad Russian Character and Music

Russia has a huge geography-total one-fifth of the earth's land mass. The people who live in the broad land has broad character and broad heart. When you listen to Russian music, you can see a big picture in front of you and you image you are the part of the picture. The Russian music was influenced by the Russian folk song, Russian literature and Russian epic ballade.
I did presentation on three Russian composers Balakirev, Tchaikovsky and Medtner and their piano music. The most famous composer among the three is Tchaikovsky. The most fun piece is Islamey by Balakirev, and the most challenging piece is Medtner's sonata.
Balakirev's Islamey: an Oriental Fantasy is written in 1869. The composer was inspired to write the piece after a trip to the Caucasus. There are two themes. The first theme is a folk tune from Caucasus, and the second lyrical theme is a folk song from the Crimean Tatars. Balakirev developed the two themes in an interesting manner and as far as possible, both symphonically and pianistically.
Tchaikovsky's Dumka Op.59 was composed in 1886. It is a Russian rustic scene. Dumka means a Slavic epic ballade, generally thoughtful or melancholic in character. There are three sections of the piece, and followed by slow sad melody -fast dance music - slow lyrical melody again.
Medtner is most challenging composer for me forever. I don't know when i will play his music again, maybe in 10 years. I had hard experience to play his one sonata and two character pieces, and I felt I was gonna die during practice them. His music demands repeated listening to penetrate. His music often has a psychologically intense, sometimes with demonic character. His Romantic style is like Rachmaninoff, and esoteric rhythmic devices and harmony is like Scriabin.

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