Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center to perform at Quick Center


The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the nation's premier repertory chamber ensemble, will offer a concert of music from the Russian Underground on Saturday, Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.

"Masterpieces of the Russian Underground: From Shostakovich to Schnittke" is the brainchild of guest pianist Vladimir Feltsman. The evening's program will include Dmitri Shostakovich's "Piano Trio No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 67," Galina Ustvolskaya's "Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano," Moisei Weinberg's "Sonata No. 1 for Cello and Piano, Op. 21," and Alfred Schnittke's "Piano Trio."

The intriguing program explores the complicated relationship between art and politics in the former Soviet Union. Ruled by a government that took rigid control of the arts, many composers refused to bow to musical conventions. Some of their truest artistic expressions were "for the drawer" pieces that were rarely, if ever, performed publicly.

Shostakovich is a fitting starting point for the concert, as he influences all of the others. The St. Petersburg-born master is known as the father of Soviet musical rebellion, a complex composer who won government approval with one piece and condemnation from Stalin himself with the next. Written in the waning days of World War II, his "Piano Trio No. 2" is dedicated to the memory of Ivan Sollertinsky, a close friend who was one of Russian's foremost musicologists.

A monumental and tragic composition, the trio blends cello harmonics with the second movement's wild scherzo and a final movement that has the character of a Jewish folk song, a daring addition for one living under Soviet rule.

Until recently, the music of Shostakovich's student and one-time fiancée Galina Ustvolskaya was rarely heard in Russia, let alone the West. Her clarinet trio is considered her best work, offering a prime example of the uncompromising, lashing fury of the woman once dubbed "the lady with the hammer."

At the time of its composition in 1949, the trio was seen as shockingly avant-garde, though today the sound is fresh and unusual. Not easily categorized, the piece is aggressive and expressive and may remind some listeners of Mussorgsky or Hindemith.

A close friend and duet partner of Shostakovich, Moisei Weinberg is another hidden treasure of the Russian Underground. Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1919, he lived in Russia and was a prolific composer, creating everything from 26 symphonies to incidental music for 65 films, plays and other performances. His cello sonata shows a meditative and narrative character, featuring Prokofiev-like clarity and an extensive cadenza for solo cello.

While Shostakovich gave expression to those living under the yoke of totalitarianism, Alfred Shnittke has been called the "man in between." His music blends old and new styles, as well as modern, post-modern, classical and baroque ideas. Composed in 1985, his first piano trio is one of few purely lyrical pieces in his collection. Each of the two movements is elegiac with bursts of fury. In 1992, Schnittke made a new arrangement of the trio, at the request of Ukranian violinist Oleh Krysa, who will be a guest artist for this memorable evening at the Quick Center.

Born in Moscow in 1952, guest pianist Vladimir Feltsman studied at the Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory of Music. In 1971, he won the Grand Prize at the Marguerite Long International Piano Competition in Paris, after which he toured extensively in the Soviet Union, Europe and Japan. In 1979, Feltsman's growing frustration with government control of the arts led him to seek emigration papers from the Soviet Union. Instead of receiving an exit visa, he was banned from performing in public.

After eight years of virtual artistic exile, he was granted permission to leave. In 1987, he made his way to the United States and gave his first North American concert at the White House.

In the last 15 years, Feltsman has been a regular guest soloist with all the leading American orchestras and has played at major music festivals around the world.

"(He is) a pianist of immaculate technique and solid musical instincts," a Washington Post reviewer wrote. "Feltsman is certainly a brilliant, thoughtful, imaginative pianist whose work is well worth attention."

The resident company at Lincoln Center, the Chamber Music Society is devoted to the outstanding performance and creation of chamber music. Its pioneering structure of 18 artist members augmented by invited guests allows Artistic Director David Shifrin to present concerts of every instrumentation, style and historic period. In addition, the Grammy-winning ensemble is committed to new works, having commissioned more than 110 pieces in its 32-year history.

In the Quick Center's performance, Feltsman and Krysa will be joined by: Shifrin, clarinet; and CMS musicians Gary Hoffman, cello; and Ani Kavafian and Paul Neubauer, violin.

Tickets are $30. For tickets, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on January 20, 2003

Vol. 35, No. 141