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Friday, 26 February 2021, 6:00PM - 7:00PM
Online Lecture

Russian Piano Masterpieces: Stravinsky

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker FBA, Peter Donohoe CBE

Stravinsky’s solo piano output may be modest in size, but it contains one of the absolute pinnacles of piano virtuosity, the Three Pieces from Petrushka. To call these pieces “arrangements” from the ballet score would be true, but misleading: they are brilliant recompositions from the ballet’s material, stranger and more elusive, and with the added dimension of extreme virtuosity (he was never brave enough to give a public performance himself). 

Unlike many composers, Stravinsky always wrote his music at the piano, and the feel of chords-under-fingers, pushing against each other, overlapping and colliding goes a long way towards explaining the unique harmonic imagination that still has an international influence that stretches far beyond the confines of modernist classical music. Where the Romantics had turned the piano from a complex machine into a living, breathing musical being, Stravinsky wanted to unpick the illusion, and bring the mechanical aspects to the fore. He often sought to bypass the pianist’s predilection for “expression”, and even turned to pianolas for a time, which dispense with the need for a performer altogether. 

The clockwork character of his writing tends to dehumanise his source materials, whether these happen to be Russian folksongs, Baroque and Classical idioms or the latest jazz. Where does this leave a pianist who is prepared to meet this challenge?

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Marina Frolova-Walker is Gresham Professor of Music. She is a Russian-born British musicologist and music historian. She is Professor of Music History and Director of Studies in Music at Clare College, Cambridge. 

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker is a specialist in the Russian music of the 19th and 20th centuries. She has published extensively on Russian music and is a well-known lecturer and broadcaster for BBC Radio 3. Among her many awards and appointments, she is a Fellow of the British Academy and was awarded the Edward Dent Medal in 2015 by the Royal Musical Association for her achievements in musicology. 

She was appointed as Visiting Gresham Professor of Russian Music in 2018-19. 

You can find more information on Marina and her research interests here: https://www.marinafrolova-walker.com/

Professor Frolova-Walker's lecture series are as follows:

2021/22 Music Under Stalin

2020/21 Russian Piano Masterpieces

2019/20 Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes

2018/19 Russian Opera and the State (as Visiting Gresham Professor of Russian Music)

All lectures by the Gresham Professors of Music can be accessed here.

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Peter Donohoe CBE is one of Britain’s foremost pianists, whose international career was launched by his success at the 1982 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Since then, he has performed at the world’s major venues, including the Hollywood Bowl, the Sydney Opera House and the Teatro Colón, collaborating with conductors such as Simon Rattle, Yevgeni Svetlanov and Gustavo Dudamel, and he has appeared at the BBC Proms a remarkable twenty-two times. 

In the course of his forty-year career, Russian music has always been at the core of his huge repertoire. His highly acclaimed recordings include all the Tchaikovsky concertos, all the Scriabin sonatas, all the Rachmaninov preludes, all the Prokofiev sonatas, Stravinsky’s music for piano solo and with orchestra, and all the Shostakovich sonatas, concertos and preludes and fugues.

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