Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2
with Lyudmila Lakisova
Lakisova, a Steinway Artist, is a powerful pianist who thrills audiences with her passionate performances. A native of Minsk, Belorussia, she emigrated to Chicago in 1995. Lakisova is active in the Chicago music community as a soloist, ensemble player, teacher, coach and accompanist, and has appeared in top venues throughout Chicago, on WFMT radio, and on tour in England and Africa.
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was a member of the Russian bourgeoisie and, until the Russian Revolution in 1917, led a privileged life. Accomplished as both a pianist and a composer, he wrote his first symphony in 1897, but it proved unpopular. He fell into depression and developed writer's block. He sought therapy, and as part of his recovery, wrote his Piano Concerto No. 2 in 1901. It was immediately popular and he resumed active composing. Its soaring melodies, emotional appeal, and unabashed Romantic passion made this concerto an instant and enduring hit. Rachmaninoff once wrote, "I try to make music speak simply and directly that which is in my heart at the time I am composing. If there is love there, or bitterness, or sadness, or religion, these moods become part of my music, and it becomes either beautiful or bitter or sad or religious." Rachmaninoff fled Russia on a sled in 1917 with his family, eventually making new homes in Beverly Hills and Switzerland; he became a U.S. citizen shortly before his death. While he continued to write some music, his primary work was as a concert pianist in his later years.
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), like Rachmaninoff, was both a pianist and composer. He remained in Russia, and a loyal Russian, after the revolution, however, but with a rocky relationship with the Soviet government over the years, in which he was alternately favored and denounced. Shostakovich frequently faced demands from the Stalin regime to write music for specific political purposes and, like other Russian composers, severely criticized for writing any music that hinted of Western influences. Stalin's death in 1953 enabled Shostakovich to write freely, and he produced his Symphony No. 10 that year. It ranks alongside his fifth and seventh symphonies as one of his most popular works. It is wide ranging in style, and includes a savage second movement believed to be a musical portrait of Stalin.
Glinka: Russlan and Ludmilla Overture
Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857) was the father of Russian concert music. When his first opera, A Life for the Czar, appeared in 1836, it was hailed as a breakthrough in the use of native folk music as the basis of a serious musical work. It was an immediate popular success and profoundly influenced later nationalistic composers, including Shostakovich. Glinka was the first Russian composer whose works received widespread attention outside his homeland. Russlan and Ludmilla, his second opera, opened in 1842. The overture is fast-paced and energetic, summing up the opera's story, which is based on a fairy tale by Pushkin. In the story, Ludmilla, just before her betrothal to Russlan, is kidnapped by the evil dwarf Tchernomor. Russlan perseveres through many fantastic adventures to rescue her, and they are finally united in marriage.