Shipston Music Society was delighted to welcome Richard Roderick Jones to its November meeting. Dr Jones came to talk to us about Tchaikovsky and Borodin, two Russian composers who were contemporaries but who composed very different music. Tchaikovsky is in a league of his own and we are all familiar with much of his music. So it was that we were told something about his lesser known music – the opera, Eugene Onegin, his Symphony no 3 and the 2nd Piano Concerto, which is tremendously difficult to play. Eugene Onegin is deeply influenced by Russian chants and the extracts that Dr Jones played certainly bore this out. He also played an aria from the letter scene, which is the longest portion of the opera and perhaps the most famous part of the Onegin story.
Borodin belonged to the Russian Five, a group of composers which included Rimsky Korsakov and Glasznov,who wrote music in the Russian idiom and renounced any European influences. Borodin was in fact a Professor of Chemistry at the University in St Petersburg and among other things, spent much of his life campaigning (successfully) for women to be admitted into the medical profession. He called himself a Sunday composer, but despite this gave us some memorable music. (Perhaps most memorably his music was adapted for us in the classic musical, Kismet). Dr Jones illustrated this part of the talk with extracts from his opera Prince Igor,which had been orchestrated by Rimsky Korsakov, and which had a real Russian flavour, and the 2nd Symphony, parts of which were tightly written around few notes.
Ann Holland on behalf of the Society, thanked Dr Jones for his interesting talk and for highlighting some less well known music from two great composers.