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2016 01 19

We all know the famous poem Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but the story to be presented this Saturday at the National Philharmonic is different. The weekend concert presents a monumental Faust Cantata by Alfred Schnittke. A number of musicians are joining forces for the occasion, including Lithuanian opera soloists M. Zimkus and T. Girininkas, a well-known singer of Lithuanian popular music and jazz E. Sašenko, a countertenor of extraordinary voice Russell Harcourt (United Kingdom), the Kaunas State Choir and the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Robertas Šervenikas.

Schnittke composed the Faust Cantata in 1983 and the music from the piece was incorporated in an opera Historia von D. Johann Fausten completed in 1994. The cantata gained popularity for an unconventional element in academic music – a tango sung through the microphone by the Devil with the mocking comments on the cruel death of Faust: the passionate tango melodies are supplemented with the Brecht-like croaking countertenor, followed by a thunderous accompaniment of electric guitar. This episode became the third act of the opera.

The story of Faust had attracted the composer for a long time. For the cantata he used texts from the Bible and an anonymous writer of the 16th century. The tour de force of the piece is a narration about Faust’s descent to Hell, thus making it different from Faust’s story in Goethe’s poem, where the character goes to Heaven. In the 16th century story the tragic life of Faust ends in cruel death.

Two variants of the sung text of the Faust Cantata have been prepared, in Russian and in German languages. The German language version will be performed at the National Philharmonic this Saturday.

Joining forces for the performance of the Faust Cantata with the Kaunas State Choir under Maestro Petras Bingelis in the first part of the concert, the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra (artistic director and chief conductor Modestas Pitrėnas) under the conductor Robertas Šervenikas will also perform the Symphony No. 6 by Piotr Tchaikovsky in the second part of the concert.

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (Pathetique) is the last symphony written by the composer, considered to be an autobiographical piece. Tchaikovsky wrote “Without exaggeration I have put my whole soul into this symphony… As far as I am concerned, I am prouder of it than of any of my previous works.” Due to lasting depression, in early 1893 Tchaikovsky wrote that he had lost faith in himself and had reached the deepest point. However, all of a sudden, he was captured in creative fever and in a letter to composer’s nephew at the end of summer we can see an entirely different attitude: “You can't imagine what bliss I feel, being convinced that my time is not yet passed and I can still work. Perhaps, of course, I'm mistaken, but I don't think so…” Affected by such emotions the composer wrote his last symphony. The premiere of the piece took place one week before his death; however a truly favourable reception came after its second performance in November 1893, following the death of composer.

The concert of the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, the Kaunas State Choir and soloists under Robertas Šervenikas will take place on 23rd January, Saturday, 7pm at the Grand Hall of the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society. inf