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Bohemian Fire

This listing is in the past
Anvil, BasingstokeBasingstoke, South-East, RG21 7QR, United Kingdom
On Thursday 19 April 2018 at 19:45

After a promising beginning as a talented composer and performer, with the premiere of his First Symphony, Rachmaninov’s confidence and momentum – if not his entire career – suddenly seemed to fizzle. The performance must have been appalling, not helped by the fact that Glazunov, not the best of conductors to begin with, appeared to be drunk! Rachmaninov called it “the most agonising hour of my life” and the effect on him was devastating. For the next three years he wrote nothing and the symphony itself was never performed again in his lifetime. The entire score is strong, highly individual and self-assured – the work of a young talent overflowing with ideas. Its four movements are unified by a single idea that echoes the shape of the Dies irae, that would recur in several of his most important later works.

The Caprice bohémien was Rachmaninov’s second serious instrumental work after graduation, immediately preceding the First Symphony. It is marked by many of the same driving, massive instrumental effects that would later cause the critics to pan the symphony as bombastic and coarse. However, this capriccio is a fine work. If much of the music is fiery and driving, there are also moments of melancholy and beauty. A love song slowly transforms into a dance celebrating the Gypsy character of the joy of living. You can easily visualise a campfire, with whirling skirts, stamping feet and pure gusto. The dance irresistibly grows more and more frenzied, until the work ends with an explosive presto for full orchestra. Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto also received initial hostility. It was shelved for a few years but after some revision and the championing of the work by violinist Adolf Brodsky it soon established itself as a concert favourite with its appealing melodies and dazzling showmanship.

Nemanja Radulović © Charlotte Abramow | DG
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