I always imagined the Russia of the late 19th and early 20th century as an enormous house, old and massive, a gigantic building, made by an architect long forgotten, with hidden stairs and closed rooms, with chimneys smoking but with rooms remaining cold, only ice flowers covering the huge windows, a house full of empty floors and hidden whispers, a house were many lived but no one was ever seen for sure. From the outside the house had cracklings and not few windows went into pieces, but inside you still could find magnificent ballrooms with candles all over the walls with its golden paper-hangings and where murmurs circulated,that the beautiful Margarita would come for a dance. Even if one does not know, if the house still exists in today’s Moscovian streets or St. Petersburg alleys, and no records exists, there are three inhabitants of this building, who take us their audience through the old Russian house, each of them in their particular way. It was probably Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky who brought with his music, knowledge of the hidden house to a wider audience, outside if the Russian borders for the very first time. But despite his immense success within European audiences, the doors of the neighbors were slammed into his face. The ongoing fights against his understanding of music, lead to growing phases of depression and a deep loneliness in the wide, spacious rooms of the house he lived in. And so his Hamlet Fantasy, performed in November 1888 for the first time, shows us not a Hamlet full of desire and self- consciousness but a man who struggles and is full of despair. The oeuvre takes us not to the Danish coastlines but into the streets of Moscow, where light and dark were never easy to differentiate and a dangerous atmosphere surrounds everything and everyone. Alan Buribayev, the chief- conductor of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra works out tremendously the vital Allegro at the end of a troubling night, filled with dark visions. He emphasizes then on the lighter oboes, when the ill-hearted Ophelia appears, while the orchestra the performs the what-if- relationship of Hamlet and Ophelia in full strength. We can follow Tchaikovsky wandering though the high halls, freezing sometimes, turning around if he still hears the screaming and shoutings of his neighbors, being alone,only accompanied by the music. But no one more than Dimitri Shostakovich shows us the dimension of the vast house in a more intense and nightmarish way than he does. It his first Cello Concerto in E-Flat with from the beginning appears as a restless run through the floors and doors of the house, always on a search for a door unlocked an away to escape. It is the outstanding Ivan Monighetti, the last student of Rostropovic who not only masters the technical tour de force for the cello, supported by a nearly invisible playing orchestra, brilliantly but who drags us deep into the house, from the deepest cellars where the cello is to be heard alone in a four-note theme, than hastening faster through the building, to his top where the cello reaches its tempestuous climax, but even on the top of the roof, is no relief to be found and Shostakovich who was declared an „enemy of the people“ in 1934, later was made into an hero, who forced by Stalin had to attend a conference in New York, calling out speeches put in front him, denouncing the lifestyle of decadent Westerners, whereas outside of the building protesters urged him to defect by jumping out of a window. Shostakovich remained a life-long prisoner of the vast house. The Cello Concerto is the most precise guideline through this building. And the third inhabitant of the house, was the only one who managed it to get out and it is his Symphony No 1 in D minor, which is mocking and flattering the house, making it look shabby and empty. The humiliating reception of the piece in 1897 led to a deep crisis for the composer but as the performance of the RTÉ National Symphony shows to wrong. Buribayev works out the gentle winds and the woodwinds by precisely leading the oboes and the strings. The contrasts of the piece become extremely clear and he is not missing to show the much more lighter and much more gentle side of the piece. And we can see Rachmaniov for a last time, standing in front of the house, gently waving and finally leaving forever.
RTÉ NATIONAL ORCHESTRA under ALAN BURIBAYEV performing TCHAIKOVSKY, SHOSTAKOVICH and RACHMANINOV, February 13th, National Concert Hall, Dublin
IVAN MONIGHETTI: Cello
Rostropovich performing Shostakovich’s Cello Concert, No. 1 may be heard here.