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Magic Fire. Solo Concert by Sergei Kasprov

2 Mar 2024, 20:00–21:30
Age restrictions

A solo concert by pianist Sergei Kasprov investigating the idea of artistic freedom and its transformation in the music of three centuries.

Programme 


With poetic daring, Sergei Kasprov juxtaposes seemingly unrelated works by composers of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, and in doing so discovers unexpected resonances that reveal hidden mechanisms at work in the history of art.

Photo: Anya Todich

Kasprov’s starting point is the Fantasia by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart—in this turn to the improvisational genre amidst the aesthetic regulations and strict forms that prevailed in the era of classicism, the composer legitimised spontaneity, immediacy, and incompleteness in artistic gesture. Impromptus, bagatelles, and “album leaves” have never been very highly valued in academic hierarchies, but this allowed them to become far more permissive than other, “higher” genres, serving as fields for elaborate experiments with sound material, creative laboratories that probed the boundaries of the new art.

The late piano works of Franz Liszt—the milestone along musical history’s path from late romanticism to Modernism that followed Wagner’s operas—are an eloquent testament to this permissiveness. In works that anticipate the discoveries of theNew Viennese School (Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern), Liszt’s compositions are built on a logic of recitation and asceticism that approaches the poetics of modernism. Instead of the composer’s usual imitation of the orchestra through the power, richness, and variety of timbres of the piano, sound here is muted, sketchy, deliberately scaled back, and anxious pauses break an already harsh and dissonant musical fabric.

If Liszt compares the free association of the creative process with the logic of the dream (the nocturnes En rêve and Schaflos! Frage und Antwort), then for Alexander Scriabin creativity is synonymous with the natural element: at first, the flame in the poem Vers la flamme barely smoulders, then gradually burns more strongly until it reaches its ecstatic culmination.

Sergei Kasprov deliberately focuses on works by composers renowned as virtuoso pianists: for them, the process of musical composition takes place as they play and is inseparably linked to tactile and muscle memory. In Liszt’s Valse oubliée, the fingers themselves seem to feel out the nostalgia of a salon waltz that takes the composer back to the time of his youth at the same time as they play into the tense harmonic context of a new era. In Richard Strauss’s opera Der Rosenkavalier, written several years before the outbreak of World War I and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the waltz sounds as a symbolic evocation of a bygone culture—in the same way that the music of Mozart would become a symbol for Valentin Silvestrov at the end of the twentieth century.

Sergei Kasprov (b. 1979, Moscow) is a pianist, harpsichordist, and organist. He studied historically informed performance on keyboard instruments at the Tchaikovsky State Conservatory in Moscow under Alexei Lyubimov and organ under Alexei Parshin. Kasprov completed his postgraduate studies at the Conservatory as a pianist before going on to study at the Schola Cantorum in Paris under Igor Lazko. He was awarded the special prize at the International Competition for Young Pianists in Memory of Vladimir Horowitz in Geneva, the grand prix at the Maria Yudina International Competition of Young Pianists in Moscow, and first prize at the Rubinstein and Scriabin competitions in Paris. He regularly participates in piano festivals in Europe and Russia: La Roque-d’Anthéron (France), Klarafestival (Belgium), Chopin and His Europe (Poland), Arts Square (St. Petersburg), December Evenings and Antiquarium (Moscow).


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756—1791)
Fantasia in D Minor, K. 397 (1782)

Valentin Silvestrov (b. 1937)
The Messenger, 1996 (1996—1997)

Franz Liszt (1811—1886)
Impromptu S. 191 (1872)
Valse oubliée no. 1 S. 215 (1881)
En rêve S. 207 (1885)
Sonetto 104 del Petrarca S. 161 (1858)
Schaflos! Frage und Antwort S. 203 (1883)
Bagatelle sans tonalité S. 216a (1885)
Nuages gris S. 199 (1881)

Alban Berg (1885—1935)
Sonata op. 1 (1908)

Percy Grainger (1882—1961)
Ramble on the last love duet from Richard Strauss’s opera Der Rosenkavalier (1927)

Richard Wagner (1813—1883)
Album Leaf. Elegy WWV 93 (1869)
“Magic Fire” from the music drama Die Walküre (1856, transcription for piano by Louis Brassen, 1877)

Alexander Scriabin (1872—1915)
Vers la flamme op. 72 (1914)

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