I went to the concert played by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Three pieces were listed on the program, but the soloist (Alexei Grynyuk) played an extra movement (one of Chopin’s Nocturnes) and the audience called for not one, but two encores, one of which I think may have been the Ukrainian national anthem. In all, six pieces were played. The three pieces listed were Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 47. The conductor was Volodymyr Sirenko. I could not see all the instruments, but there were multiple violin sections, a sizeable percussion section, two bassoons, two clarinets, two flutes (one of the flute players also played the piccolo), quite a few large stringed instruments (including a harp) and a piano. During the concerto, the soloist played the piano at the front and center of the stage. During intermission, the piano was moved behind the violins to be in the percussion section. There were no voice parts. I noticed that there was a high concentration of women in the strings section, and the only other section to have a woman was the woodwinds section; this section only had one woman. There was a good mix of young and old musicians.
I use music to meditate and fall asleep, so sitting in a dark room surrounded by music did make me a bit sleepy and I may have nodded off once or twice during the Prokofiev’s piano concerto (especially during the dynamically soft periods). I dozed off during Chopin’s Nocturne, and even started dreaming! My least favorite piece was the piano concerto, purely because I found the pianist to be a bit overdramatic. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. For the piano concerto, the piano stuck out the most. During the Shostakovich movement, the tuba was quite noticeable. The bassoon was more noticeable in Prokofiev’s piano concerto than in any other piece. The concerto was in a clear A-B-A format. I heard absolutely no issues in the playing ability of the orchestra, but I don’t have enough experience to judge whether something was off. I have a special affinity for Stravinsky, as I learned about him in another music history class and was enamored by the Rite of Spring (which is a stark contrast to the Firebird Suite; this makes the Firebird Suite even more interesting). The Shostakovich piece was exciting towards the end, but also seemed somewhat mournful; I think some instruments playing during the march bit may have been playing in a minor key.
None of these composers have been covered in class yet. All three composers listed worked during the 20th Century, putting them in the Late Romantic or Modern categories. These composers worked under the USSR, and Stravinsky eventually made it to the United States. I got to the concert hall before the concert, and there were two people on the stage talking about Shostakovich. I didn’t get there in time to find out who these two people are. According to them, the somewhat mournful aspect of Shostakovich’s march at the end of Symphony No. 5 may be a reflection of how celebrations in communist Russia were forced and the participants didn’t have their full hearts and souls going into the celebrations. My listening may have been influenced by this talk. Either way, the Stravinsky and Shostakovich pieces were both highly enjoyable.