Russian fest, part two | Music | DW | 15.03.2019
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Russian fest, part two

This hour, more electrifying performances in an antique hydroelectric power plant from the early years of the 20th century. The playbill includes energized music by two Russian composers.

Listen to audio 54:59

Concert Hour: Russian Fest, part two

Galina Ustvolskaya, long considered the "great unknown" of Russian music, almost always took performing musicians and her audiences to the fringe. One interesting aspect of the Ustvolskaya work we'll hear this hour is the spacial concept of the instrumentalists, as cellist Tanja Tetzlaff explained to DW: 

"The cello and the piano are supposed to be several meters apart, and the cello is supposed to stand on a podium," said Tetzlaff. "Because of this positioning, I think that, although it's called a Grand Duo, it's really about two individuals who somehow work their way through a cloud of rage, desperation and hopelessness. It's a very, very extreme piece. I've seldom played anything that expresses that state of being so insistently, so ruthlessly and uncompromisingly."

Antique metal turbines (DW / Maksim Nelioubin)

The old turbines in the power plant make for an interesting backdrop - and they still work

With 25 minutes in five movements alternating between manic excitement and deep, introverted sadness, uncompromising music like that requires a radical interpretation — which is what we get from the performers in our concert.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky wrote his second string quartet around Christmastime in 1873, while in Moscow. The piece brings a quartet by Mozart to mind. Known as the Dissonance quartet, it changes its colors from moment to moment. Violinist Antje Weithaas said that that's no coincidence, as this quartet definitely has Mozartean qualities. 

"It's a very complex piece, but with bright colors somehow," explained Weithaas. "There are incredibly melancholy and sad moments of course. This piece is sensitive, but it doesn't exactly jump into your ear. Even as a performer, you have to work your way into it. That's unusual for Tchaikovsky. I really get the impression that he wanted to take a different direction from his normal style."

The pianist Lars Vogt (picture-alliance/dpa/H.Wöstmann)

The pianist Lars Vogt is also the artistic director of this festival

Galina Ustvolskaya
Grand Duo for cello and piano 
Tanja Tetzlaff, cello
Dina Ugorskaya, piano

Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky  
String quartet No. 2 in F Major, op. 22: 1st, 3rd and 4th movements 
Antje Weithaas, violin
Byol Kang, violin
Timothy Ridout, viola
Tanja Tetzlaff, cello

Recorded by Radio Deutschlandfunk, Cologne, in the Power Plant in Heimbach on June 18, 2018 

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