The thematic music of Dmitri Shostakovich echoed the halls of the Embassy of Austria from the multi-talented artists of the Russian Chamber Art Society. Seven classically trained musicians and vocalists filled the room of over 160 persons with music at the Tribute to Shostakovich. The Embassy hosted the society’s 10th anniversary: “Masterpieces of Russian Vocal Music,” on December 4, 2015.
Forty years after the death of Shostakovich (1906-1975), his music still resonates. During an hour and a half of musical bliss, the instrumentalists and vocalists paid homage to his legacy. The Society beautifully commemorated a tribute, which included two compositions dedicated to Russian art songs of Romance, an instrumental trio, and one piece of social realist music. My mind created a dance of fluidity within the grotesque style of Shostakovich’s music. The four pieces performed created a diaphanous cover of the imagination; from pastel colors to darkness.
The musical measures of the “Suite for Voice and Piano, Op. 143,” went right along with the six poems by Marina Tsvetaeva, performed by Mezzo Soprano Magdalena Wor accompanied by pianist Vera Danchenko-Stern. Founder and Artistic Director Danchenko-Stern had magical hands that allowed the creation of outstanding balance, which ultimately put me into a trance.
A quintessential trio comprised of violinist Victor Danchenko, cellist Nadia David, and pianist Vera Danchenko-Stern performed the “Trio in E. Minor, Op. 67,” which was composed by Shostakovich in 1944. This work includes four sections: allegro, allegro con troppo, largo and allegretto. The synchronicity of each artist made you feel their passion.
The range in musical tempo made me imagine myself as a willi in Giselle and then the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker next, while possessing multiple characteristics of musicality. Beginning to end, Danchenko, a man of impeccable musicianship, had a calm spirit that showcased his love for music and the propinquity between him and his violin.
A night of wonder and bliss continued with an immaculate performance of a quartet. Jennifer Casey Cabot (soprano), Vera Danchenko-Stern (pianist), Nadia David (cellist), Victor Danchenko (violinist), performed the seven poems written by Alexander Blok titled the “Romance Suite, Op. 127.” This poem, written in three days in 1967, closely resembled the Russian Symbolism Style, which was popular during the time. The translations provided for the poem, allowed you to fully connect, as you truly understood what the words meant. The third poem of the suite, “We Were Together,” links directly to Victor Danchenko playing his violin and says in part that “…the sounds of a violin were aiming at the heart.”
The quartet performed so effortlessly that one wondered if they’d been playing together since birth. Jennifer Casey Cabot, beautifully attired in a green gown, had this way of reeling you into her world of sound, and then releasing you into the realm of silence.A fabulous collaboration of voice and sound projected notes that harmoniously complimented Cabot’s vocal range.
On January 12, 1989, the “Anti-Formalist Rayok,” made its debut at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts under the direction of Mstislav Rostropovich. This work reflects the speeches of Andrei Zhdanov, and even quotations from “Suliko,” Joseph Stalin’s favorite song. Under Stalin’s rule, there were many controversies in the Soviet Union, which inspired Shostakovich to use music as a medium to release these issues. This work was performed that evening by Nikita Storojev (bass), Tatiana Storojev (piano), and Grigory Soloviov (not included in the program).
Nikita Storojev, a Tchaikovsky competition winner and bass singer, possessed a charismatic ambience that drifted across the stage as the wavelengths of his vocal chords streamed from the depth of his core. Hand motions evoked the passion of Storojev as he embodied the satirical essence Shostakovich intended for this social realist music.
There were moments in Shostakovich’s work that showcased a full range in tempo from largo to allegretto. The meaning of each score was revealed that evening through multiple tempos. It’s interesting to note that today’s music and some commercials draw upon composers like Shostakovich, Debussy, and others, but we never notice it. It was only when I truly sat and listened closely to the Russian Chamber Art Society, that I realized how connected the present life is to its past.
Russian Chamber Art Society: Jennifer Casey Cabot (soprano), Magdalena Wor (mezzo-soprano), Nikita Storojev (bass), Nadia David (cello), Victor Danchenko (violin), Vera Danchenko-Stern (piano), and Tatiana Storojev (piano).
Running Time: 90 minutes.
The next concert for The Russian Chamber Art Society is The “Silver Age” of Russian Poetry in Music – is on February 26, 2016 at 7:30 pm at the Embassy of Austria – 3524 International Court, NW, in Washington, DC. Purchase tickets online.