Metamorphosen, study for 23 solo strings, TrV 290, AV 142
Symphony No 14, Op. 135 for soprano, bass and chamber orchestra,
on verses by Federico García Lorca, Guillaume Apollinaire, Wilhelm Küchelbecker, and Rainer Maria Rilke
soprano: Nadezhda Pavlova
bass: Dmitry Ulyanov
conductor: Teodor Currentzis
The musicAeterna orchestra’s programme unites two masterpieces composed by Russian and German 20th-century classics in their later years: Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No 14. The core theme of both works is reflections on death and transfiguration.
Dmitri Shostakovich created the score of Symphony No 14 in just over a month during the winter of 1969 when he was undergoing planned yet ineffective treatment in hospital. The symphony, dedicated to Benjamin Britten, is an exceptionally unusual cycle. It includes eleven movements for two soloists (soprano and bass) and a small string orchestra with an augmented percussion section. Each movement is a separate vocal and symphonic piece. All the movements in the symphony are linked together by a dramatic logic, going from a wildly tragic protest against all that destroys human paths, souls, and lives to restrained and focused grief.
Richard Strauss wrote his study Metamorphosen in the final months of World War II and completed it in April 1945. The work is one of the composer’s last masterpieces. In Metamorphosen, one hears the composer’s shock at the bombings of Dresden, Munich, and Vienna, transformed into an elegy in memory of a destroyed culture. There is a recognisable motif from Wagner’s Tristan, a theme alluding to the beginning of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, and numerous references to the music of Bach, the Viennese classics and Strauss’ early works. During the 25-30 minutes of this piece, an alchemical act is happening in the polyphonized score flesh; it is the transfiguration of darkness into light and grief into enlightenment.