"Russian Photographs" in Utrecht

It is not for the first time that the Dutch conductor Herman Draaisma and the orchestra "Zoroaster" include the "Russian photographs" by Rodion Shchedrin in their concert program. This time, this four-movement work for string orchestra from 1994 will be performed on June, 21st and 22nd in the Lutheran Church in Utrecht. It shows in musical flashbacks several memories of the composer of his Russian homeland, in which he nostalgically looks retrospectively back not only on his childhood, but also, sometimes with humor and irony, sometimes with pain and horror, at life in the former Soviet Union and at the social and political reality at that time. While Shchedrin remembers in the first part of the work "The Old Town Aleksin" to the familiar place of his childhood and his grandfather, the local priest, he draws in the second part "Cockroaches all over Moscow" a humorous picture of this persistent infestation under which the Russian capital suffers. In the subsequent third part "Stalin-Cocktail", however, it can be heard the drum roll and the crash of military parades, the sighing of the victims of the Stalinist purges and the sound of shooting guns together with the melody of the old Russian song "Otschi Tschornije" ("Dark Eyes") that the cruel dictator supposedly liked to sing. Finally, one can feel Shedrin’s sadness about the consequences of the communist regime: the far away-sounding chime of half-ruined churches, the omnipotence of atheism and the discord among his countrymen. Here, the composer makes use of the well-known Russian folk song "Evening Bell", which is also the title of the last part of this music work.