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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Russian Concert Masterworks: A Vibrant Tradition Part II

4-Session Daytime Course on Zoom

Tuesday, March 23 to April 13, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1K0073
$80 - Member
$90 - Non-Member

Sergei Rachmaninoff (Library of Congress)


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.

MAR 23  Scriabin and Rachmaninoff

These two Moscow Conservatory classmates were renowned as tremendous pianists and composers. However, the supremely polished Sergey Rachmaninoff seems positively conventional next to Alexander Scriabin, a highly eccentric would-be Messiah who created his own musical language colored by synaesthesia and powered by his bizarre mystic beliefs, as exemplified by his tone poem Prometheus: Poem of Fire. Franklin compares this extravagance with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

MAR 30  The Ballet Masters: Stravinsky and Prokofiev

Commissioned by the great impresario Serge Diaghilev, Igor Stravinsky’s ballets crossed the fault line between romanticism and modernism and changed forever the way audiences understood dance. Franklin samples his Petrushka and The Rite of Spring. Sergey Prokofiev composed his Romeo and Juliet under the malign supervision of Soviet apparatchiks yet still produced a ballet score of sublime romance and beauty.

APR 6  Shostakovich and His Colleagues

Despite the fearsome pressure of the Stalinist state, Dmitri Shostakovich was prolific, producing a wide range of symphonic works, operas, concertos, solo works, choral, and chamber music for the 20th-century canon. Along with fellow Soviet composers such as Kabalevsky and Khatchaturian, Franklin explores a selection of Shostakovich masterpieces including symphonies, operas, and film music.

APR 13  More Masterpieces

Franklin concludes the series by sampling a variety of other great works in the Russian tradition. Selections include music from Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov, ballets by Tchaikovsky, orchestral works by Rachmaninoff, chamber music by Shostakovich, and additional composers.

4 sessions

Interested in more Russian Concert Masterworks? Part I of this course is on Feb. 23 to March 16, 2021.


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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.