István Várdai, András Keller and Concerto Budapest

SHOSTAKOVICH: Jazz Suite No. 1, Op. 38
SHOSTAKOVICH: Suite Varieté for Orchestra (‘Jazz Suite No. 2’) – Second waltz
SHOSTAKOVICH: Cello Concerto No. 2, Op. 126
STRAVINSKY: The Firebird – ballet

István Várdai cello
Concerto Budapest
Conductor: András Keller

Shostakovich and Stravinsky – two giants of 20th century Soviet and Russian music. Their art lies at the heart of the András Keller and Concerto Budapest concert in April, exactly on the 36th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe. Although one frequently perceives a bitter tone in the work of Shostakovich due to the oppressive nature of the Soviet system, delirious joy is never far away. This concert reveals both sides of the composer. The programme also has The Firebird, moreover the entire ballet, one of the most famous early works of Stravinsky who moulded his stylistic phases in a chameleon-like way.

The music of Shostakovich has over the past several decades enjoyed a renaissance. The domestic audience has much to thank András Keller and Concerto Budapest for since they include works by the composer on their programme each year. Today’s occasion is exceptional because we can hear not only two of the composer’s light, jazz-inspired pieces (also used as film music), but the occasionally sombre, occasionally grotesque, and at other times festive or folk-toned late concerto. Shostakovich’s scintillating humour is evident in the first jazz suite and the famous waltz of the Suite Varieté need no introduction, nor does István Várdai, soloist of the Cello Concerto No. 2. The globetrotting musician has been teaching at the Vienna music academy for several years but he often makes appearances in his homeland, too. The orchestral version of The Firebird, the story of the evil sorcerer Koschei and Prince Ivan, comes after the intermission; this ballet was the first collaboration between Stravinsky and Diaghilev in 1910. It proved massively successful.