For the fourth Rosendal Chamber Music Festival, Leif Ove Andsnes, has chosen the title “DSCH” – the musical signature of Dmitri Shostakovich. Over four days from 8 – 11 August, Andsnes and this year’s guest artists will perform a wide spectrum of the Russian composer’s works alongside music by his predecessors, contemporaries and successors and, through a series of talks and lectures, will be asking the question: can we listen to Shostakovich’s music today without knowing the political ramifications of his time?

Joining Leif Ove Andsnes on stage this summer are fellow pianists Sasha Grynyuk, Marc-André Hamelin, Igor Levit and Marianna Shirynian, as well as Andrei Bondarenko (baritone), Veriko Tchumburidze (violin), Tabea Zimmermann (viola), Clemens Hagen (cello), Quatuor Danel, Ensemble Allegria and clarinettist Anthony McGill. As in previous years the Festival also features young Norwegian artists with the welcome return of Sonoko Miriam Welde (violin) and the debuts of Amalie Stalheim (cello), PERCelleh and Christian KrogvoldLundqvist (percussion).

Introducing the 2019 Rosendal Festival, Leif Ove Andsnes commented: “Norway is somehow very close to Russia – we share a border in the far North and I feel that there are cultural links between the two countries. Yet at the same time Russia remains very distant, because of its politics but also because it is hard to comprehend the sheer enormity of the country’s size and history.”

“It has been fascinating to put this programme together as I find this music both moving and exotic. Shostakovich has an emotional impact like no other and I will never forget the first time I was literally «hit» by his music in concert. I was 16 years old, it was the 10th Symphony, and I walked out of the concert hall a changed person.”

“What I want to explore during this year’s festival is Shostakovich`s extraordinary diverse musical language which ranges from music of great depth and drama – symphonies, string quartets and sonatas – to film music and other light music inspired by cabaret and jazz. Alongside Shostakovich there will be other Russian composers’ music featured in the festival. Mussorgsky was perhaps the greatest influence on Shostakovich and, at their best, I do feel both of them have an unfiltered and almost brutally honest quality to their music. We will play music by Shostakovich’s contemporaries (Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Ustvolvskaya, Krein) and his successors (Schnittke, Silvestrov, Denisov).”

“One composer who will also feature prominently throughout the festival is Alexander Vustin. Born in Moscow in 1943, Vustin is relatively unknown outside of Russia but an important musical voice in his homeland – hugely admired by his colleagues. I had no knowledge of his work before being introduced to it by several Russian musicians and became immediately fascinated. Writing in many different styles, he has a strong personal voice which can be almost hauntingly hypnotic.”

“Some people say that you need to see Siberia before you understand the Russian soul. But with four packed days of music, talks, lectures and the great Norwegian wilderness on our doorstep, I hope we are able to scrape the permafrost surface and dig an inch or two into an understanding of that Russian soul.”

As a part of the overall concept for the Festival professor Gunnar Danbolt has curated a two-part exhibition concept: at the 17th century Manor, there will be an exhibition of works by the Norwegian artist Svein Johansen (1946- ) with the title Tilegnet (Dedicated To). The title arises from the fact that many of the paintings are dedicated to artists who have meant and continue to mean a great deal to Svein Johansen. They include not only composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Messiaen, Schönberg, Shostakovich, Ligeti and Cage, but also poets such as Paul Celan, and artists such as Michelangelo and Edvard Munch and film maker, Andrej Tarkovsky. In the Great Hall there will be a digital exhibition of the art that dominated the Soviet Union during the time of Dmitri Shostakovich. Some of the paintings will show official Soviet art with its emphasis on heroic workers in their workplace and peasants in the fields in a realist style from the end of the 1800s. Although the content is different, it was the same style to which Adolph Hitler gave his seal of approval. Both these dictators admired art that was simple and easily understood. This was not the case for western modernism, which Hitler called “degenerate art” and Stalin “formalist”. Nonetheless, underground modernist art was also created in the Soviet Union, and we shall see some examples of this.

Gunnar Danbolt will give exhibition lectures in Norwegian and English whilst pre-concert talks will take place throughout the festival, presented by the British composer, arranger, broadcaster and writer Gerard McBurneyand Norwegian professor of history Erling Sandmo. Gerald McBurney will also be joined by Leif Ove Andsnes for a conversation about Shostakovich’s life and music.

The Rosendal Chamber Music Festival extends deep thanks to the Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Foundation, whose meaningful financial support has made the festival’s ambitious artistic goals attainable.

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