Live recordings

Dmitri Shostakovich
From Jewish Folk Poetry, Op. 79a

Closing Concert of Prague Spring 1998

The Prague Philharmonia

Jiří Bělohlávek

Lívia Ághová - soprano
Marta Beňačková - alto
Štefan Margita - tenor

live on 3rd June 1998, Smetana Hall, Prague

Dmitri Shostakovich: From Jewish Folk Poetry

The inspiration for this song cycle came by chance when the composer was browsing in a bookshop and came upon a slim volume of Hebrew folk songs in Russian translation. The simple but powerful verse engrossed him so much that, in the summer of 1948, he selected eleven of them and composed a song cycle for soprano, contra-alto and tenor with piano accompaniment. Sixteen years later he returned to the songs and orchestrated them. Five of the songs are for solo voice, four are duets and two are trios. Shostakovich intensified the emotional impact of the verse and using instrumentation that is economical, sensitive and evocative, from each song he created a miniature drama of elemental force.

The Prague Philharmonia was established in 1994 as an ensemble in which musicians of the younger generation would join forces. The leading role in this effort was taken by conductor Jiří Bělohlávek. Jiří Bělohlávek has been successful in forging the young musicians into an ensemble with unusually coherent sections, where technical perfection and the spontaneous musicality of the individual players is complemented by enormous vitality and, at the same time, an indispensable dose of artistic humility and responsibility. The basic instrumentation of the Prague Philharmonia is derived from the Viennese classical orchestra, but is supplemented and altered according to need. The ensemble interprets works whose scoring ranges from small string and wind ensembles to a full symphony orchestra. In its repertoire, the orchestra focuses on the masterpieces of the classical and romantic eras, and on music of the twentieth century.

director: Adam Rezek
time: 24 min.