The music of Petr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) has been very impactful on me since I saw his ballet The Nutcracker when I was a little girl. His music is one of the reasons why I decided to become a Russian musicologist. This year (2015) is the 175th anniversary of his birth and throughout this year, Russia’s musical organizations held concerts celebrating his musical works. I never thought that after only being in St. Petersburg for two days that I would be attending a concert featuring many of the Tchaikovsky’s pieces that I have come to love so dearly.
The concert took place at the Площадь Искусств (Art Square), which also houses the Russian Art Museum. The square also contains a beautiful park where one can go and enjoy the weather of the city. The concert was outdoors and the day was cloudy with light rain, but I was impressed by how many people were in the audience and the majority stayed until the conclusion of the concert. Being a concert that was free and outdoors, the audience was more casual and did not have to adhere to the strict rules of a concert hall. However, this did not take away from the musical experience of seeing an orchestral concert.
The city of St. Petersburg is very important to the music of Tchaikovsky. He began his education here at the Imperial School of Jurisprudence in 1850 and when he moved away from a career in law to music, he would be apart of the first graduating class of The St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1865. Many of his most popular works, including the ballets The Sleeping Beauty (1889) and The Nutcracker (1892), the operas The Queen of Spades (1890) and Iolanta (1892), and his Symphony No. 5 (1888) and Symphony No. 6 (1893), had their world premiere in St. Petersburg. This city is also the place where Tchaikovsky died in 1893; his grave is located here in the Alexander Nevsky Cemetery alongside his other musical contemporaries, such as Mily Balakirev, Anton Rubinstein, Alexander Borodin, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Modest Mussorgsky. For me, there was something very special hearing his music ring throughout the night air of St. Petersburg.
What I really enjoyed about the concert was the variety of music that was performed. Not only were his symphonies and ballet music featured, but also the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra under the direction of S. Kochanovsky performed his violin and piano concertos and arias from his operas with soloist from the opera company at the Mariinsky Theater. I love that the orchestra presented a well-rounded program of his works to show the audience the diversity of his musical style. It was also great to hear such popular works as his Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, and Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor. I was super excited when they performed a scene from my favorite Tchaikovsky opera, The Queen of Spades. Even in the cold, rainy night, the audience gave an enthusiastic response after each piece.
I have always been impressed with how the Russians paid tribute to those who created their artistic and literature culture. It was almost a surreal experience being in the audience and I spent a lot of time watching the audience’s reaction to his music. I received warm smiles from older patrons who seemed to be glad that I was enjoying this concert in their city. I also appreciated that some of the friends I made recently through SRAS came along and sat through the concert with me in the cold. They cannot wait to see another concert and I am so excited to introduce to them the beauty of Russian Classical music during my time in St. Petersburg.
Day of Russian Music in Saint Petersburg
Art Square; Free Admission
The St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony Orchestra
Director: S. Kochanovsky
About the Contributor:
Jesika Berry holds a bachelors of arts in music performance (flute) from Spelman College in Atlanta Georgia. She has formerly been a principle flautist for AUC Symphony Orchestra (Atlanta) and a cellist for the Huxford Symphony Orchestra (Tuscaloosa). After completing SRAS’s Home and Abroad Scholarship program, she hopes to go on to graduate studies in Russian musicology.