Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra – Easter Festival
Rimsky-Korsakov : Russian Easter Overture
Beethoven : Piano Concerto No.4
Wagner : Parsifal Good Friday Music
MacMillan : The World’s Ransoming
Conductor : James MacMillan
Soloist: Juho Pohjonen (Piano)
Rimsky-Korskov’s effervescent overture – whose actual Russian title is “Svetliy prazdnik” (“Bright Holiday”), the traditional Russian name for Easter – reflects his fascination with the legends and rituals of pagan and early Christian Russia. It occupies a different world, ablaze with colours and lights, full of sheer vitality and visceral excitement set off by passages of brooding darkness. It is awesome, majestic, imposing in its austerity in one moment, and in the next bursting with a spirit of primitive energy and revelry.
The Fourth Piano Concerto, one of Beethoven’s greatest compositions, was composed simultaneously with the Fifth Symphony. The two are related in their use of a three-note rhythmic motive and may have germinated from the same conceptual seed, though with vastly different results. It once and for all shakes itself loose from the constraints of the 18th century. Virtuosity no longer concerns Beethoven at all; his artistic aim here is the expression of deeply poetic and introspective thoughts.
Good Friday Music is the orchestral portion of a scene from Act III of Parsifal that was later arranged by Wagner for performance as a separate concert piece. The regal opening signifies Parsifal’s anointment as King of the Knights of the Holy Grail whilst the tenderest of music accompanies the repentance and baptism of Kundry, a type of Mary Magdalene figure, and Parsifal’s own rapture as he is imbued with the wonder of Good Friday.
The World’s Ransoming is the first of a triptych of interrelated works which also include a Cello Concerto and a large symphonic score Symphony: Vigil, for which the premieres were both performed and conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich. All three relate to the events and liturgies of the Easter Triduum – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. The World’s Ransoming focuses on Maundy Thursday and its musical material includes references to plainsongs for that day, Pange lingua and Ubi caritas as well as a Bach chorale (Ach wie nichtig).