A3: Crazy Romance

Richard Wagner:
 Lohengrin, overture
Ferenc Liszt: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in E flat Major
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 43


Federico Colli – piano
Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava
Kaspar Zehnder – Conductor

It is always a bit difficult to precede a performance of Shostakovich’s gigantic Fourth Symphony, his terrifying apocalyptic vision of life in Stalin’s totalitarian regime, a vision whose destructive power and insistent suggestiveness leave very little space for something else in one’s memory.
Today, it will be the task of Wagner, with his touching fantasy fairy-tale overture to Lohengrin, and Liszt, with a renowned repertoire piece performed by 30-year-old Federico Colli, the winner of prestigious piano competitions in Salzburg and Leeds.
The Fourth Symphony is the “tragic twin” of his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District – which is these days being performed in Ostrava (let’s also mention next month’s piano Preludes and Fugues). While the opera experienced two successful years of performance in countless productions, the courageous symphony – which had already been rehearsed by the Leningrad Philharmonic – instilled such fear among all the participants that it was withdrawn right on the day of the announced premiere in the autumn of 1936, ostensibly upon the request of the composer. The symphony was performed for the first time a full quarter-century later, in 1961, at a time when the Shostakovich had almost forgotten about it.
The impression which the old piece left on the composer was overwhelming. From that point onwards he would speak of it as of his greatest work, and he thought with regret about how great his music might have been had he withstood the pressure and kept going along the same lines. But then, under the influence of the symphony, he changed his musical language as well as his attitude towards the Soviet system, and this late transition resulted in the great vocal Fourteenth Symphony which we had the opportunity to hear last November. The Fourth became a kind of redemption for Shostakovich, but it is rarely performed due to its huge scale, mammoth instrumentation, and performance requirements almost beyond human physical abilities.