STAGE TUBE: Preview of NY Phil's Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 11, 10/17-19
The NY Philharmonic presents Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Kirill Gerstein is the soloist. The program, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, closes with Shostakovich's Symphony No. 11, The Year 1905, which vividly depicts the tragic Russian Revolution of 1905. Check out the video below!
Niccolò Paganini was the flamboyant violin superstar of the 19th century, and he knew how to wow his audience; his talents were so incredible that he was said to be in league with the devil. Among the works he composed to show off his technical wizardry were his notoriously difficult 24 Caprices for Solo Violin (1805). So it seems entirely appropriate that a wizard of the piano - Sergei Rachmaninoff - should take the 24th of these caprices and write his own notoriously difficult 24 variations for piano and orchestra. The Rhapsody became his signature piece, which he performed often and to great acclaim. The work was perfect for him, known for his long, slender fingers and formidable hand span (reaching an interval of 13 notes, equal to about 12 inches!), though even he admitted, "The composition is very difficult, and I should start practicing it." He premiered it with The Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski shortly after completing it. The 24 variations fall into roughly three movement-like groups: Variations 1-11, 12-18, and the final 19-24. Highlights include the 7th, with its echoes of the terrifying medieval chant Dies irae (Day of Wrath) and the ultra-romantic 18th, which is Paganini's theme turned upside down. We swoon over this "biggest hit" of Rachmaninoff, and the last section never fails to leave listeners enthralled. Yet, when all seems to be approaching a bombastic end with a pounding reprise of the Dies irae and a series of knuckle-busting runs, the composer ends with a sly, soft little "curlicue." (Pop culture fun fact: on the sound track of the movie Groundhog Day Bill Murray's character plays a little of the 18th variation on electric keyboard, followed by his own jazz variation.)