Mussorgsky Night on Bald Mountain
Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op.16
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Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, Op. 47
Featuring Lucas Debargue piano
Conductor András Keller
This concert programme is characterized by the monopoly of Russian music. Modest Mussorgsky clarified Night on Bald Mountain in the same year as the Austro-Hungarian Compromise (1867), and then he shoved the score in the back of a drawer because in its original form it did not meet with the approval of his mentor, Balakirev. The musical witches sabbath later became famous with instrumentalization and arrangements by Rimski-Korsakov, and to this day the work is largely performed in this variation. Prokofiev’s second piano concerto had an even more convoluted fate: the score completed in 1913 was destroyed amidst the turmoil of the Russian Revolution so Prokofiev set about reconstructing it purely from memory in 1923. “The cats on the roof make better music!” is one opinion voiced at its premiere in 1913, although today one can but marvel at this astoundingly difficult work, the soloist of which is French pianist Lucas Debargue born in 1990. After the interval, the audience will hear one of the most enigmatic compositions of the 20th century, Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5. The masterpiece was written in 1937, not long after official cultural policy labelled his amusingly titled opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District as undesirable. Some music historians claim that it was with his Symphony No. 5 that set Shostakovich off on the bumpy path towards "socialist realist music” – and the work was indeed popular with Stalin's cultural police. Meanwhile, others point to the delicate and unwaveringly precise irony of the piece, suggesting that Shostakovich's works were never written to serve the system. Regardless of whether we accept the arguments of either side, and whether symphonic music is capable of conveying any form of political message, Shostokovich's Fifth Symphony is undeniably among the 20th century's most exciting orchestral compositions.