In this concert, we hear music from the two centres of musical life in Russia during the 19th century.
Moscow was the more provincial city and Tchaikovsky’s home, whilst St Petersburg was the cultural centre of Russian life at this time.
Between 1885 and 1908 a group of composers, the ‘Belyayev circle’ met to perform chamber music in
an informal setting. Works by the old masters, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven were heard alongside something new written specifically for that evening. To gain entry to this circle one must have trained at the St Petersburg Conservatory, impressed Rimsky-Korsakov, and then receive an invitation to Belyayev’s house.
Composers such as Borodin, Glazunov and Lyadov hoped their compositions
would end up here. Arensky, on the other hand, decided to follow his own path. After studying with Rimsky-Korsakov in St Petersburg he returned to take up a post at the Moscow Conservatory.
There he met Tchaikovsky, to whom this second string quartet is dedicated. Alice Neary joins the Navarra in this piece and David Adams completes the team for the much more frequently performed Souvenir de Florence. One of Tchaikovsky’s sunnier works, it nonetheless caused the composer a
considerable headache trying to escape from the string quartet form. After its revision two years after completion he finally remarked: “At the moment, I’m terribly pleased with myself.”