Bolshoi continues its Rakhmaninov celebration and introduces Frank Peter Zimmermann to Russia


In the year of the 135th Rakhmaninov anniversary, the Bolshoi Theatre has been devoting a lot of attention to this great Russian composer. Just over a month ago, the Bolshoi Orchestra and Nikolai Lugansky played all the Rakhmaninov piano concertos for orchestra. And quite soon, in mid July, the Bolshoi will be presenting a concert performance of the Rakhmaninov operas The Miserly Knight and Francesca da Rimini at the prestigious Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. The first performances of these two operas took place at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1906 and were conducted by the composer himself.

The Miserly Knight is also in the program of the June 30 concert which Bolshoi Theatre Music Director and chief conductor, Alexander Vedernikov, comments on as follows:

Rakhmaninov's two operas, The Miserly Knight and Francesca da Rimini, are fairly difficult, though very interesting works, and I would like to present at least one of them in Moscow. Many are expecting a concert performance of the operas from the Bolshoi Theatre. And there are certainly operas which gain in a concert performance, for instance, Iolanta or Samson et Dalila - which in some degree or other are dramaturgically weak, though very interesting in a musical sense. In so far as concerns Rakhmaninov, it seems to me that the characteristic feature of his operas is that they fare better at a concert performance than on stage. Rakhmaninov either lacked experience, or he simply did not have a talent for opera dramaturgy. His opera Aleko, for instance, is virtually impossible to produce, one of the reasons for this being that all its chief characters make sudden appearances.

The Miserly Knight is a fairly unusual work. There is no female part and no chorus. The opera was composed to the original Pushkin text which is virtually intact, apart from a few cuts. In other words, there is no libretto as such, what we have is the text of the small tragedy and this, of course, is excellent because it is a marvelous literary work.

In my opinion, a performance by a good solo violinist would be the ideal end to our concert season. And though we did not have much time at our disposal, this is exactly what we have managed to organize. I have never appeared with Frank Peter Zimmermann, but his recordings make a very strong impression. Of course, Beethoven and Rakhmaninov are a rather unusual combination. But if one has already opted for Rakhmaninov, what else, Rakhmaninov apart, could one possibly have in the other section of the program? In my view, both make for a classical concert. And fairly often, the program which is arranged according to contrast rather than similarity, turns out to be very attractive.