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Russian Concert Masterworks: A Vibrant Tradition Part I

4-Session Daytime Course

Tuesday, February 23 to March 16, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1K0071
$80 - Member
$90 - Non-Member
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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
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With the works of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, and other composers, Russia has provided us with some of the most exciting and original music in the repertoire today. Vibrant colors, explosive energy, and passionate emotional drive characterize the works of these creators. Yet this tradition seemed to spring from nowhere barely 150 years ago, expanding meteorically in breadth and national confidence over an amazingly short period.

As she explores the riches of Russian concert works, popular speaker and concert pianist Rachel Franklin combines lectures and piano demonstrations to trace the turbulent historical movements that acted both as backdrop and engine for this fascinating musical evolution.

British-born Franklin has been a featured speaker for organizations including the Library of Congress and heard on NPR, exploring intersections among classical and jazz music, film scores, and the fine arts.

FEB 23  Glinka’s Ancient Roots

Mikhail Glinka almost single-handedly laid the foundation for the Russian concert music tradition. Franklin offers a lightning survey of ancient Russian folk song and chant, exploring how the composer incorporated those styles into such important works as his delightful Kamarinskaya, and his opera Ruslan and Lyudmila.

MAR 2  Rubinstein vs. The “Mighty Fistful”

A shaggy lion of a figure, the Russian piano virtuoso Anton Rubinstein had little time for composers like Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Mussorgsky—three of the “Mighty Fistful” whose work was fueled by a new nationalism. However, his political activism laid the practical foundations for the powerful Russian musical institutions of today and helped establish the Russian piano tradition. Franklin presents his Piano Concerto No. 4, plus works by Mili Balakirev and Alexander Borodin.

MAR 9  Tchaikovsky vs. The “Mighty Fistful”

Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky strove to keep all his musical colleagues happy while negotiating the tricky diplomacy between the new Russian nationalism and the old European classicism. Franklin compares his Symphony No. 2, the “Little Russian,” with such works as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade.

MAR 16  Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky: A Study in Opposites

Tchaikovsky’s dazzlingly elegant Piano Concerto No.1 was excoriated by Anton Rubinstein’s brother Nicholas, but today it is  a cornerstone of the concert repertoire. Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition was virtually unknown when he died, but this rough-hewn diamond is now constantly performed in multiple arrangements.

4 sessions

Interested in more Russian Concert Masterworks? Part II of this course is on March 23 to April 13, 2021.


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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.