These many years listening to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Festival Overture, and I had no idea he was an atheist. This preview accompanies the video (above).
Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op. 36 (1888)
A concert overture by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), based on themes from Russian Orthodox liturgical chant. In particular, Rimsky-Korsakov uses chant melodies from the “Obikhod” collection, referencing a number of biblical passages including Psalm 68 and Mark 16. The intention in this overture is not devotional – indeed, Rimsky-Korsakov was an atheist – but he attempted to capture “the legendary and heathen aspect of the holiday, and the transition from the solemnity and mystery of the evening of Passion Saturday to the unbridled pagan-religious celebrations of Easter Sunday morning” (quoted from the composer’s autobiography). The piece is also notable for its use of the unusual 5/2 and 3/1 time signatures. This recording was made by conductor Jos van Immerseel and the Anima Eterna Orchestra, which plays on period instruments.
On Saturday, the Louisville Orchestra performed at the Ogle Center on the campus of Indiana University Southeast, performing two of the composer’s most popular works.
Both crowd and orchestra were large; there were only a few empty seats scattered among the spectators, and something like 55 musicians on stage, including six (!) percussionists.
As Gerard Schwartz explains, deploying the skills of each one of these musicians is a hallmark of Rimsky-Korsakov’s compositions.
The music took me back to the early 1980s, when I made cassette copies of the two works and listened to them while planning adventures in Europe. There was the excitement of a full house, and the enthusiasm of Teddy Abrams. All cylinders, I’m telling you. We love the Neighborhood Series; next up is Brahms, on January 27.
As an added bonus, the LO’s new album was being sold in the lobby after the performance, and we snatched a copy ($20.
In our first recording release in nearly 30 years, the Louisville Orchestra reached #1 on the Traditional Classical Chart in Billboard in its debut week. Titled All In, the album was released by the US-based classical label Decca Gold and is the second #1 release for the company since its launch earlier this year.
Graham Parker, President of Universal Music Classics and Decca Gold, says, “We are so thrilled with the success of All In. The city of Louisville fully embraced their orchestra, their music director and the orchestra’s first album in nearly thirty years.”
Released on September 22, All In features a new work composed by Music Director Teddy Abrams, “Unified Field,” as well as Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto with Teddy as soloist. Chanteuse Storm Large joins Teddy and the LO for three songs: a Cole Porter classic, one of her own original works, and a song by Teddy.
Teddy says of the album, “We have selected works that deliberately join together styles of music in a pluralistic – or American — way The strength of our country’s art is both its great diversity of expression and our relationship with populism — the music of the people.”
Vocalist Storm Large, who has collaborated frequently with Teddy and the LO, is a musician, actor, playwright, and author. She has performed with Pink Martini, and appeared with the San Francisco Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony and made her Carnegie Hall debut singing Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins with the Detroit Symphony, which she also performed with the LO.
The Louisville Orchestra has a long and robust history of commissioning and recording new works, particularly in the early 20th century. Important works by major composers were commissioned, premiered, and recorded for worldwide release on First Edition Records. For generations, these recordings made the Louisville Orchestra revered as a leading voice in contemporary orchestral music around the world. With All In, Teddy and the Louisville Orchestra revive a legacy and continue the quest to be the “Most Interesting Orchestra on the Planet.”
Following the concert, we enjoyed a nightcap (Bell’s Double Cream Stout) at Pearl Street Taphouse in Jeffersonville. It’s becoming our go-to place; downtown New Albany has much to offer that Jeff doesn’t, but not a draft beer list as good as Pearl Street Taphouse’s. As an aside, Parlour has a fine list, too.
I miss the old days at the Public House, when Sidney and a select contingent of his orchestral mates would drop by for pints following their gigs. Fun times, indeed.