“Living the Classical Life”: Why Bother?
Preview: The Birth of a Russian Concerto
“Living the Classical Life”. So, what is it? Why do I bother hosting it when I should be practicing piano? How did it start? Why should anybody care?
The show seeks to illuminate the world of classical musicians, to interest new audiences, and to provide hope and wisdom for aspiring musicians from the experiences of seasoned performers. It is neither a blog nor vlog, nor merely an internet venture–though sometimes, for lack of category, people have referred to it as such.
Few people know it started out as a filmed portrait about me that accidentally turned into interviews within a series. Some of my closest friends in Oberlin wanted to help establish a short film to put on my website, but after filming in Ohio and in New York, it became clear that I was asking others about their paths.
Seemingly only the realm of comparisons satisfies in the 21st century: there are hints of harmonic language and rhetoric that have moved beyond the territory of the exploratory Rachmaninoff Fourth Concerto, and the manic energy of the Prokofiev Second and Third. There is a narrative sense of an epic fable, as only Prokofiev’s orchestral works could tell–the expressive and atmospheric string glissandi in the finale of Trifonov’s work recall the Scherzo of the Prokofiev Third Symphony, and a fairy-tale quality in quieter moments seems reminiscent of the “Tales of a Grandmother”. The darkness of the opening has hints of orchestration by Richard Strauss, as does the seductive waltz section of the finale with instrumental solos. Harmonies in the second movement are of a complexity and luminosity of middle-period Scriabin, while the interplay of orchestral and piano resonances sometimes goes beyond romantic-era discoveries–surely under the influence of composer Keith Fitch, who supervised the composition of the work. Despite all these comparisons, and a Russian character sometimes derived from Orthodox harmonies and rustic rhythms, this concerto is an energy that can hardly contain itself.