A concert For Peace:
Two American musicians, pianist Jonathan DePeri and baritone Frank Mathis, resurrect the rarely-performed Russian song-cycle Petersburg, prompting reflection upon 100 years of Russian-American cultural exchange, and the future of music.
About the Program:
Petersburg, a song cycle by Georgy Sviridov, one of Russia's most important composers in the last half of the 20th century, is a setting of nine poems by Alexander Blok. Blok, who lived from 1880 to 1921, is often called a "Symbolist" poet, as Sviridov is called a "neo-Romantic" composer. These terms are virtually useless, especially to the listener who has the opportunity to experience this music for the first time, filled with all possible as well no particular expectations.
More than anything else, Petersburg recalls the approach to "the short story as music" that Franz Schubert's 24-song cycle, Winterreise, and several of Robert Schumann's and Johannes Brahms' song cycles and even individual songs had also advanced. Sviridov's settings of Blok's poems are a jarring "throwback" to the lieder song cycle — a set of poems. Beethoven invented this idea with his Op. 98, An die ferne Geliebte; Brahms' Vier ernste Gesänge, (Four Serious Songs), Op. 121, his last composition, is sometimes thought of as the final word in the genre.
Sviridov and Blok, in other words, dared to write beautifully about tragedy, to reject the pervasive culture of non-musical ugliness, and to uplift the audience of both the present and the future for whom the songs were composed. This was a courageous act.
In performing Petersburg and the other selections in this concert program, the two American artists hope that the humanity clearly portrayed in these Russian songs, the dialogue of over a century among poets and musicians from Europe, Russia and the United States, might prompt the replication of the same spirit of beauty and purpose that produced them.