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Episode 4

Duration:
1 hour
First broadcast:
Thursday 30 December 2010

Donald Macleod continues his exploration of the rich tradition of Russian opera from Glinka to Schnittke with a musical conservative - Sergei Rachmaninov - and a pair of progressives - Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Prokofiev. One of only three operas completed by Rachmaninov, The Miserly Knight sets one of Pushkin's four Little Tragedies, in a tradition stretching back to Alexander Darghomïzhsky's The Stone Guest. Stravinsky's opera The Nightingale is an attractive but rather strange work. Stravinsky wrote the first act in 1909, then broke off to fulfil what turned out to be a trio of ballet commissions, for The Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring. When he returned to The Nightingale in 1914 - with the incentive of a fat commission fee from the Moscow Free Theatre - his style had undergone a radical transformation. It had changed again by 1922 when he started work on his next opera, Mavra, which stands at the beginning of his neo-classical phase. After a somewhat shaky start - the composer compared the critics at the New York première to a "pack of dogs let out from behind the gate to bite my trousers to shreds" - Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges has gone on to become one of his best-loved works, a delightfully absurd confection in which a hypochondriac prince finds the love of his life inside an enchanted orange - and why not.

Music Played

5 items
  • Image for Igor Stravinsky

    Igor Stravinsky The Nightingale (1914) - extract from Act 2

    Performer: Phyllis Bryn Julson (The Nightingale - soprano), BBC Symphony Orchestra, Pierre Boulez (conductor)

    Erato 2292-45627-2

  • Image for Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov

    Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov The Miserly Knight (1904)

    Performer: Mikhail Guzhov (The Baron - bass), Russian State Symphony Orchestra, Valeri Polyansky (conductor)

    Chandos CHAN 10264

  • Image for Igor Stravinsky

    Igor Stravinsky The Nightingale (1914) - extract from Act 2

    Performer: John Tomlinson (Chamberlain - bass), Nightingale (Phyllis Bryn Julson - soprano), Neil Howlett (Emperor - baritone), Ian Kennedy (1st Japanese envoy - tenor), Gareth Roberts (2nd Japanese envoy - tenor), Brindley Sherratt (3rd Japanese envoy - bass), Ian Caley (Fisherman - tenor), BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Pierre Boulez (conductor)

    Erato 2292-45627-2

  • Image for Igor Stravinsky

    Igor Stravinsky Mavra (1922) - extract

    Performer: Mary Simmons (Mother - mezzo-soprano), Patricia Rideout (Neighbour - contralto), Susan Belinck (Parasha - soprano), Stanley Kolk (Cook - tenor), CBC Symphony Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky (conductor)

    Sony 88697103112-14

  • Image for Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev

    Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev The Love for Three Oranges, op.33 (1919)

    Performer: Evgeny Akimov (Prince), Anna Netrebko (Princess Ninetta), Larissa Shevchenko (Fata Morgana), Mikhail Kit (The King of Clubs), Olga Korzhenskaya (Smereldina), Alexander Morozov (Leander), Kirov Chorus and Orchestra, St Petersburg, Valery Gergiev (conductor)

    Philips 462 913-2

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