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Full Week of Rachmaninoff and Russian Music


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.


4 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. To have Rachmaninoff festival in Boston is a wonderful idea, particularly knowing the he demised the opportunity to become the BSO musical director. Unfortunately the program of festival does not look like Rachmaninoff’ event. The Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta that looks like the keystone of the week has nothing to do with Rachmaninoff. The rest events are more like Russian classical pop-music even than the Rachmaninoff festival.  For sure to undertake Iolanta production is a noble objective. Iolanta in unlucky opera and it never was properly performed (alike the “Queen of Spade”). I hope they will pull good Iolanta but I would much more appreciate if they go not for Tchaikovsky’s opera but for less known Rachmaninoff works. Rachmaninoff for instance composed his version of Boris Godunov – VERY different from Mussorgsky and in own way absolutely wonderful. I think to undertake the  Rachmaninoff’s Boris would be more sensible during a Rachmaninoff’ week then to hit Tchaikovsky.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — May 14, 2012 at 10:44 am

  2. *Dear “Romy the Cat”.  Thank you for your insightful comment.  You probably heard of a famous international competition for singers and instrumentalists: the Tchaikovsky Competition. Despite the name, the repertoire presented at the competition is not all by Tchaikovsky, and it is not even exclusively Russian.  To whet your appetite, however, Boston Vocal Arts Studio is planning to mount a production of Rachmaninoff’s rarely performed “Aleko” in the future season.  We hope to see you at our “Iolanta” this week-end.

    Comment by Olga Lisovskaya — May 15, 2012 at 1:39 am

  3. Thanks, Olga, and if you are the organizer of the event than I do appreciate your efforts.  Your analogy with Tchaikovsky Competition is not exactly accurate as the name of a competition was called after has no implication on the repertoire of a competition.  Still, that all not too significant, just a name “Rachmaninoff Week” as it was announced in radio another day did sound a bit confusing. I was contemplating when to go: on Sunday or the following Tuesday. Sunday look like the “prime” time but it will be first performance and I figured out that it might be better to go on Tuesday as it might be better rehearsed by orchestra. Dina Kuznetsova  vs. Zhanna Alkhazova? Go figure, it is not a “competition” after all….  Anyhow, I hope they will be offering real-time English subtitles…

    Comment by Romy The Cat — May 15, 2012 at 8:57 am

  4. *There will be English supertitles.  Both sopranos, Zhanna and Dina, are fantastic.  You could come to both performances, if you wish :)

    Comment by Olga Lisovskaya — May 15, 2012 at 5:34 pm

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