One of the most popular composers in the world of classical music is being celebrated. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra has teamed up with a number of other arts groups to bring together a Tchaikovsky Festival. It kicks off at the Concert Hall on Oct. 25.
James Manishen has been involved in the programming of the festival and is a font of knowledge when it comes to the great Russian composer.
SCENE asked him to share with us five things we may not know about Tchaikovsky:
Tchaikovsky conducted the opening concerts at Carnegie Hall the first week of May 1891.
He actually conducted four concerts and they met with great success. There's an interesting parallel in that the WSO is headed to Carnegie Hall on May 8, 2014. The hall hasn't changed much, so Alexander Mickelthwate will be standing in the same spot where Tchaikovsky stood 123 years earlier, nearly to the day.
He visited Niagara Falls during his visit to North America and actually got soaking wet from the Falls so he could experience the power of the water.
Tchaikovsky loved nature. Every day when he was composing he’d go for long walks. He’d get everything set in his mind and then he’d come back to his house and write it down. At Niagara Falls he waded in (where the Maid of the Mist goes today), got soaked, and was thrilled. He said it was the highlight of his trip.
Tchaikovsky originally studied law before deciding on music.
He went to the School of Jurisprudence for nine years. He then switched to music and studied at Russia’s first music conservatory. He was in the St. Petersburg Conservatory’s very first graduating class.
He composed the 1812 Overture in just one week.
He didn’t want to do it because he didn’t like writing for occaisons, but he needed the commission, so he agreed. The 1812 Overture will be part of the opening concert of the WSO’s Tchaikovsky Festival.
He never met his long-time patron.
Nadezhda von Meck was Tchaikovsky’s biggest supporter. In 14 years and something like 2000 letters, they never met and that was by her intent. She never wanted to see him because she felt that the relationship had to be at arm’s length. She had 12 surviving children out of 18 and Tchaikovsky had nieces and nephews. So they arranged for her son to marry one of his nieces as a bond between them.
The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra kicks of the week-long Tchaikovsky Festival with a concert tomorrow and Saturday at the Concert Hall. Guest conductor Aziz Shokhakimov leads the orchestra in the bombastic 1812 Overture and the Symphony No.4. Canadian cellist Denise Djokic joins the orchestra in "Variations on a Rococo Theme."
On Sunday the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir presents and afternoon of Russian choral music with Russian-born conductor Yuri Klaz leading the choir and sharing stories.
The festival runs all week with chamber music, a movie, a talk with Alexander Mickelthwate and James Manishen and more orchestral music next week.