Classical

All About the Russian Soul

Frankly Music features two top guest artists doing Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Shostakovich.

By - Jan 14th, 2016 02:18 pm
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Frank Almond, William Wolfram and David Requiro

Frank Almond, William Wolfram and David Requiro

This Monday evening Frankly Music continues a season sampling classical music of various nations with selections from Russia. The series moves to Wisconsin Lutheran College for what will be an intimate chamber concert. Frank Almond has invited two guests: pianist William Wolfram and cellist David Requiro. Almond and Wolfram have been long-time collaborators. They have produced several CDs together and Wolfram has been a frequent guest at Frankly Music concerts. Requiro will appear at his first Milwaukee concert.

Requiro, who teaches at the University of Colorado-Boulder, has won a string of international competitions and regularly performs as orchestra soloist and with quartets and other chamber groups. Wolfram has established a long career as a guest soloist with orchestras around the world. Almond appreciates Wolfram’s approach to the Russian piano style, whether with the broad dramatic flourishes of Rachmaninov or the angular, percussive sounds of Prokofiev.

The three works on the program all reflect the “Russian soul.” Each, in a minor key, presents a reflective, funereal perspective. But they could hardly be more different from one another.

Sergei Rachmaninov‘s student work, Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor, evolves rapidly within one movement, opening with a “lugubrious” slow melancholy, as it’s been described, and ending in a funeral march. Within the movement, piano and strings are more expressive and impassioned. The expansive colors of the piano are immediately recognizable as the romantic Rachmaninov sound.

Sergei Prokofiev‘s Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 80 is often intimate, stretching the boundaries of dissonance, featuring haunting sounds from the violin. Prokofiev observed formal structures in the classical style, while introducing contemporary, angular sounds.

Dmitri Shostakovich‘s Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67 appears to be a  much larger piece – more animated and complex. Shostakovich writes in a more personal way, introducing dimensions that Prokofiev’s more absolute music does not attempt to capture. Shostakovich was mourning the death of a close friend and, near the end of World War II, reflecting his visceral reaction to the horrors of war, including recent news of concentration camps. His music incorporates a less disciplined soundscape adapted from Jewish klezmer music. The work is challenging for both violin and cello, which often must play in a higher register than the violin – using all harmonics.

Russian classical music is best known for extravagant orchestra works and dramatic opera. Considerably less Russian chamber music has been written, but this concert selects from among the best.

The concert begins at 7:00 p.m. next Monday at Wisconsin Lutheran College’s Schwann Concert Hall – located at 8800 W Bluemound Rd, Milwaukee. Reserved seat tickets ($35) may be purchased at the door or in advance through the Frankly Music website  or through the Wisconsin Lutheran College box office: 414-443-8802. Student tickets are available for $10. Or take advantage of the Frankly Music Friends membership program: Pay $50, then purchase tickets for family and friends (up to 10) at 20 percent off. Discounts apply to CD’s and t-shirts as well. Friends also have exclusive access to audio streaming of past concerts.

The final concert in the series, May 16th at Wisconsin Lutheran College, will revisit a popular theme from the 2010-11 season. The extraordinary accordionist Stas Venglevski will return as featured guest for a concert featuring Tango music from Brazil and beyond.

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