Rodion Shchedrin

Rodion Shchedrin was born in 1932 in Moscow into a musical family: his father was a composer and a teacher of music theory. He studied at the Moscow Choral School and in 1955 graduated from the Moscow Conservatory where he studied composition and piano. His first major works were written in his early twenties. Never a member of the Communist Party, at the collapse of the Soviet regime Shchedrin was able to participate more fully in musical life world-wide. He now divides his time between Munich and Moscow.

A virtuoso pianist, Shchedrin has often performed his own works, which include five concertos for piano and orchestra, sonatas and 24 preludes and fugues for piano. For over a decade he spent lot of his time and energies on heading the Russian Federation of the Union of Composers - having succeeded its founder, Dmitri Shostakovich at the request of Shostakovich. In his opera Dead Souls (after Gogol) and the ballet Anna Karenina (after Tolstoy), he introduced classics of Russian literature to musical theatre. All were performed at the Bolshoi Theatre, making Shchedrin the first composer to have had seven works staged there in its 200-year history. Shchedrinâ's choral works, set to texts of Russian poets, are widely performed, as are his symphonies and five concertos for orchestra.

In 1992 President Boris Yeltsin awarded Shchedrin the Russian State Prize for his The Sealed Angel Shchedrin has succeeded in synthesising traditional and new forms by using every contemporary technique of composition including aleatoric and serial. His attraction to Russian folklore and folk music, Russian poetry and literature, is strongly evident in his oeuvre, making him a pre-eminently Russian composer with a voice that nevertheless speaks to all humankind. Since 1989 Shchedrin has been a member of the Berlin Academy of Arts.

Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
1955 The Little Humpbacked Horse - Ballet 4.00 stars 2 SACD
Schtschdrin Comments:
The story of “The Little Humpbacked Horse” — in which young Ivan the Fool’s adventures with wild horses, his new companion the resourceful Little Humpbacked Horse, firebirds, the silly Tsar, the scheming Gentleman of the Bedchamber, the beautiful Tsar Maiden and the Sea People lead him to marry the Tsar Maiden and become the new Tsar — is a romp. It’s actually easier to follow in the theater than on paper, though the one helps the other.

Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre cond. Valery Gergiev

1963 Konzert Nr. 1 "Freche Orchesterscherze" für Orchester 4.00 stars  LP
Schtschdrin Comments:

Moscow State Philharmony cond. Kyrill Kondraschin

1963 Concerto for Orchestra: Naughty Limericks 4.00 stars 2 SACD
Schtschdrin Comments:
Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre cond. Valery Gergiev
1964 Not Love Alone 4.00 stars LP
Schtschdrin Comments:
Symphonic Suite from the Opera

Irina Archipowa - Mezzo Soprano

Moscow State Philharmony cond. Kyrill Kondraschin

1967 Carmen Ballet 4.00 stars LP
Schtschdrin Comments:
The Bizet Carmen Opera, basically arranged for drumband

Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra cond. Gennady Rozhdestvensky

1972 Anna Karenina Ballet 4.00 stars 2LP
Schtschdrin Comments:
Complete ballet

Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra cond. Yuri Simonov

1972 Anna Karenina Ballet 4.00 stars BD-R
Schtschdrin Comments:
Complete ballet

This Anna is set to Rodion Shchedrin's purpose-written score, and it takes its cue from the music in driving the story at determined speeds. A simple set, overlaid with scenic projections, whisks the action from Moscow to St Petersburg; and Ratmansky's choreography interacts with the design to vividly ingenious effect.

At the party where Anna and Vronsky first dance together, their delirium of feeling is amplified by the chorus, who whirl in and out of focus around them. At the racecourse, stylised footage of beating hooves plays behind a fierce male ensemble dance – catching the visceral excitement of the horse race without literal representation. The gossipy nature of Moscow society is evoked through barbed and brittle dance language – hands raised, heads averted as cruel speculations are exchanged.

But if we have a clear sense of how trapped Anna is by people and by place, what's less present is the inner world she inhabits. And it's here that Shchedrin's score is such a problem for Ratmansky. Its hurtling pace allows few moments for the characters to take emotional breath – we get only a cursory snapshot of the moment when Anna and Vronsky fall in love. And while their first bedroom duet is eloquently choreographed, its sheering lines suggesting both ecstasy and doom, the abrasively martial music that accompanies it prevents the emotion from resonating – despite a performance of dark intensity from Diana Vishneva.

We watch the tragedy unfold, but don't actually feel it until near the end. Anna's last meeting with her son, where she runs blindly to embrace him, is heart-rending. And the suicide is genuinely terrifying as footage of a monstrous train seems to drive at Anna, straight out of her worst nightmare.

Choreographer, Alexei Ratmansky
Mariinsky Theater Orchestra
Conductor, Valery Gergiev
Set and costume, Mikael Melbye
With:
Anna Karenina: Ulyana Lopatkina
Alexei Karenin: Viktor Baranov
Count Vronsky: Andrei Yermakov
Princess Shcherbatskaya (Kitty): Svetlana Ivanova
Stepan Oblonsky (Steve): Dmitry Pykhachov
Daria Oblonskaya (Dolly): Xenia Ostreikovskaya
Konstantin Levin: Filipp Stepin
Princess Betsy: Sofia Gumerova

Recorded in the Mariinsky Theater.

Broadcasted by Mezzo TV, Netherlands

1989 Concerto for Orchestra No 4 4.00 stars CD
Schtschdrin Comments:
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra cond. Kirill Karabits
1989 Concerto for Orchestra No 5 4.00 stars CD
Schtschdrin Comments:
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra cond. Kirill Karabits
1994 Kristallene Gusli (Crystal Psaltery), 4.00 stars CD
Schtschdrin Comments:
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra cond. Kirill Karabits
2002 The Enchanted Wanderer 4.00 stars 2 SACD
Schtschdrin Comments:
"Concert Opera"

Based on a story by the 19th-century Russian author Nikolai Leskov, the opera is steeped in Russian folklore and beliefs. It tells the story of Ivan, a young man who, in the course of his travels, flogs a monk to death, is captured and tortured by the Tatars, joins a prince's retinue as horse trainer, loves and loses (to said prince) a Gypsy woman whom he subsequently kills at her own request, and is ultimately led by her ghost to a monastery, where he takes holy orders to atone for his deeds.

Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre cond. Valery Gergiev