You don’t have to go too far in Fort Worth to find specialists in Russian music, so it’s no surprise that the Cliburn Concerts’ winter festival takes The Music of Russia as its theme. The festival goes in for no unfamiliar names, as some Nikolai Medtner piano pieces that were originally scheduled have been scrubbed. Couldn’t a few minutes have been devoted to Arensky, Tcherepnin, or Gretchaninov?
Still, there’s stuff here that you likely haven’t heard here. Prokofiev’s Four Études, written when he was a teenager, show that he had already found his mature style at such a young age. Scriabin did not have occult themes in mind when he composed his Ninth Piano Sonata, but when one of his disciples nicknamed the piece “Black Mass,” the composer signed off on it. Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet is a masterpiece of the form, with a weird Spanish-like movement in the middle, and his From Jewish Folk Poetry is a neglected and devastating song cycle setting Russian translations of Jewish poetry. He wrote that in 1948, during the aftermath of his denunciation in official circles and after he had found out about the Holocaust. The song cycle, which could not be performed publicly until after Stalin’s death, contains both the composer’s biting sarcasm and his deep despair.
The Music of Russia runs Thu-Sun at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St, FW. Tickets are $20-50. Call 817-212-4280