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Tchaikovsky and… the mysterious Bach-ish light of Alexei Shor's works



"Sleeping beauty", the most perfect ballet in history, was a new form for Russian music and choreographic action. Being in the prime of his creative powers, the great composer wrote not just ballet music – under the influence of another genius, Marius Petipa, a completely new concept of the ballet performance was born; the symphonization of music originally intended for dancing made a real revolution…

Tchaikovsky in this ballet unleashed his imagination, as well as the artistry of colorful sound recording and spectacular decorativeness. Importantly, the ballet-extravaganza (this is the term to be used) based on the French fairy tale reflect the very essence of the composer’s personality – the element of Russian soul!

The stunning success of the piece in 1890, when the Tsar's family was present in the hall of the Mariinsky theatre, broke all records with regards to costs: 42 thousand rubles were allocated for the ballet (a quarter of the annual budget of the theaters of St. Petersburg!)

The Sleeping beauty Suite from the ballet is an absolutely self-sufficient, fully-fledged symphonic work, created in the editorial office of Ziloti and Juergenson. In the interpretation of Maestro Stadler Tchaikovsky is incredibly bright, cheerful, brilliant and elegant. He managed to "seize" the necessary balance of equilibrium and harmony, because the music of "Sleeping beauty" captivates with its sensual fullness and emotional, amazing magic and fabulousness. The musicians of the orchestra managed to immerse us in the world of romance, bright dreams and beautiful moments. The orchestra sounded very special in the Theme of the Lilac fairy – the culmination of the symphonic suite. One could feel everything: the gentle impetuosity, the powerful cascades of orchestral tutti, and the brilliance of the solemn sound of the winds.

Sergey Stadler is a true master. In his comments about his work he is modest and truthful. We cannot but quote Maestro right before the concert: "Conducting is a silent profession..."

Eternal struggle of light and darkness, regardless of time... The strengths of the musicians’ performance were also monolithic sound forte, symphonic coverage of the form, and, at the same time, - the full sounded parties of orchestral voices, subtle specification of individual themes, intonations, melodies…

Now, when the festival in Malta has gained momentum, it is obvious that the European Foundation for Support of culture has created a kind of "Maltese miracle" and every evening the audience receives surprise gifts. The program of each concert is effectively combined, and the concerts themselves have "intriguing-enticing" names, for example, in Concerto Extravaganza harmoniously intertwined Baroque world with a modern musical interpretation of the philosophical theme of "Seasons" by the composer Alexey Shor. And today's "Extraordinary Concert" is marked by a tribute to Tchaikovsky's immortal creation, but Alexey Shor's "Well-tempered chanson" instantly makes us change and move to another musical dimension!

Alexey Shor became known to the world by his "Well-tempered chanson", in fact: he composed this work for his friend, violist David Aaron Carpenter. This music represents those who live to sing and those who sing to live... It is worth reminding that in Russia the term "Russian chanson" appeared only in the 90s, when this kind of song began to sound on stage, radio and TV. The concept of "Russian chanson" now covers a fairly wide and very different circle of artists - from Vertinsky and Arkady Severny to Claudia Shulzhenko and Mark Bernes…

The premiere was an amazing success, and since then it has been performed everywhere. It was greeted with applause at the Metropolitan Museum and Carnegie Hall. The cycle was then recorded with the London Philharmonic orchestra. And finally it started travelling and now reached Malta…

"Well-tempered chanson" was long-awaited by the MIMF followers, because it created a big interest – look at the name alone! However, what’s in this name? What’s the connction with Bach?.. The answer is that Alexey Shor and the world culture co-exist in unbreakable unity and this allows us to find amazing stylistic connections, splices, interactions, provided by the highest mastery of the composer.

On the title page of his Well Tempered Clavier Bach wrote: "For the benefit and use of aspiring to the teaching of musical youth, as well as for the special pastime of those who have already succeeded in such a doctrine..."! The main character of the concert – David Aaron Carpenter has already succeeded in all the above: his elegant appearance and fantastic charm, great movements and aristocracy in harmony with the spirit of the composition prove that. Let’s add his superb acting… The composer named his cycle using the word game: "Well-tempered chanson", i.e. chanson perfect, ennobled, dignified, correctly-sounding (here come into force the analogy with Bach’s idea to prove the existence of the evenly tempered scale). Kaleidoscope of genres used — Marsh-Tarantella-Waltz-Samba-Madrigal-Tango-Bossa nova – all these become a wide panorama of musical images, in our opinion, a real musical encyclopedia! The composer plays by naming parts of the cycle, having great fun! We travel with the author in the maze of human feelings and passions with a simple idea; chanson is the aesthetic category of the comic, the pathetic, the tragic, mockingly sarcastic and passionate…

In the first part, the thick, "human" voice of the viola literally sang to all of us "Murka", suddenly, subtly framed ritornelli in the Italian style... the intonations of the table song "Wait a minute, dear train" in Trans-Siberian Waltz are surrounded by gorgeous intonations of Bach’s style... Baroken love – Broken love – a word game, meaning "broken love", sounds grotesque and burlesque in the spirit of the March-style popular songs. In the rhythms of dashing Samba dressed the most recognizable Jewish melody "Seven-forty", and "Bagels" already wear spectacular clothes of Argentine tango…

Special attention deserves the Chicken Tarantella. Known in ancient Spanish tradition, Tarantella, the magical dance that heals patients with tarantism. In Shor’s interpretation this becomes an urban folk song "Fried Chicken"... so many amazing parallels, analogies and associations!.. "Well-tempered chanson" really amazes both from the point of view of musical dictionaries of different eras, and of the artistic concept of the possibilities of the genre itself.

Beethoven called the Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier a "musical Bible", and Casals is inspired by "the difference of impressions produced by different keys"... Alexey Shor used only minor in his cycle. The composer himself believes that "music should reflect moods and feelings", so it seems to us that at times the overall figurative structure of the composition balances on the verge of "merry sadness" or "sad fun". And now we cannot but recall the remarkable quote of Ernest Theodor Hoffmann: "One, being in a bad mood, I bought myself a camisole coloured C-sharp minor, but in order to console myself, I sewed it to the collar – colour E major...". It is not necessary to be a musician to understand the power of tonal paint and its embodiment. One can talk for a long time about the favorite minor and majors of different composers, but still it seems to us that the essence of this work is somewhat different... Often in the music of Alexey Shor, through the clear proportions of melodious lines and harmonic structures that can be compared with framing colored stained glass, shines warm and mysterious Bach’s light, giving the composer a new incentive for creativity…


Tatiana Esaulova

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