From May 20th through May 27th, the Second International Rachmaninoff Russian Music Festival will be presenting eight concerts in various Boston locations, from some usual venues such as New England Conservatory and First Congregational Church, Cambridge, to a synagogue in Brighton and the Somerville Museum. Named in memory of that one-time Russian émigré to America, Sergei Rachmaninoff, the festival will present a spectacular mix of performances with a special focus on the operatic and choral vocal traditions, though piano solo, organ, and chamber music will also be featured.
The opening concert on May 20th is to be a staged production of Tchaikovsky’s opera, Iolanta, the subject of an earlier article here. The remaining events present a large and varied roster of artists and ensembles, culminating in a Jordan Hall finale with three Russian choruses, a German youth orchestra, The Festival Orchestra, Juventas New Music Ensemble, pianist Vassily Primakov and numerous impressive vocalists. “Two years ago we brought a men’s choir, “Blagovest,” from Moscow, said Artistic Director Irina Shachneva. “The response was overwhelming and we couldn’t find seats for everyone. That’s why we’re having our finale in Jordan Hall this year.We’ve planned to host two guest choirs from Moscow and one from St. Petersburg. We’ve also invited vocal and instrumental soloists from Germany and Russia, such as the great pianist Vassily Primakov, who will not only offer a solo recital but will also be accompanying some of the singers. We’re also very proud to have one of this year’s winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Andrey Nemzer as soloist. Since first I heard him as a soloist of “Blagovest” two years ago, I knew he had a great future.”
Shachneva conceived the idea of organizing the festival in 2009, with close friends. “We wanted to bring the best singers from Orthodox churches around America, uniting all generations of Russian émigrés, to present a high quality of choral singing in the Slavic tradition. The idea then spread wildly beyond just a choir. The Boston Russian Choir, which I had led for years, grew into the Festival Choir, which then organized the current festival itself.
“It’s my firm belief that Russian music should be important part of American culture. The connection is very strong — consider the popularity of Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky — but I also hope to introduce audiences to other composers, such as Ledkovsky and Shvedov, lesser-known but perhaps just as important. The audience for our 2010 festival finale was about half Russian and half a general audience. We hope that this year’s program will bring inspire even more of the concert-going public to share our love of Russian music.”
The Festival’s website is bursting with riches here.