Wednesday Music: Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major

I know, I know: I’m posting this so late that by the time many of you read it, it will already be Thursday! But better late than never, right?

Today’s music is Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219. It was the last violin concerto he wrote and is probably one of the more often-played in his violin repertoire. Here’s a bit about it.

  • This concerto’s nickname is “Turkish” because of a section in the third movement that is supposed to sound, well, Turkish. In this era, Turkish things were fashionable in Europe—or at least things people thought were Turkish. From what I know, the passage isn’t actually that similar to Turkish music.
  • The tempo for the first movement is marked Allegro aperto, which is rare for Mozart’s instrumental pieces. He more commonly used this marking in his operas.
  • The piece was finished in 1775 and premiered in Salzburg that December. After writing it, Mozart did not write any more concertos for the violin for the rest of his life. (Unless you count the Adagio in E Major, K. 261, but that’s not a full concerto.)

Here’s a video of Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer playing it. Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

No Peace For The Last Tsar And His Family

Ugh, this news makes me so annoyed. Paul from the Royal Russia blog I read posted an article from Interfax, one of Russia’s main news sources, about a proposal to exhume the remains of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.

“All doubts about the authenticity of Emperor Nicholas II’s family relics should be eliminated,” said Sergey Mironenko, the director of the Russian State Archive (GARF) in Moscow.

[…]

As to disclosed relics of Nicholas II’s children Alexey and Maria, the archive director says he “is categorically against burying the relics without participation of the Russian Orthodox Church.”

He also promised to publish in the Internet all the materials referring to the case on disclosure of the tsar and his family relics. “The Russian State Archive has its own website and there we will post all the documents discovered during the research,” Mironenko said.

There’s more to the article, but the English is so bad that it’s just painful to read. Though, in my opinion, even if the English weren’t bad, it still would be painful. I don’t understand the point of digging up poor Nicholas and his family all over again. I’ve read so much about the search for the imperial family’s bodies. The evidence is conclusive: those people are indeed the late tsar and his family, along with their faithful servants. There’s been DNA analysis done. The best forensic scientists in the world have examined the remains. What more proof do you need?

It just makes me so frustrated. Those poor people lay rotting in a mineshaft without a proper burial for decades. Apparently the Russian Orthodox Church won’t recognize that these are indeed the remains of the tsar and his family. I wish they’d stop being stupid and let that poor family be buried together, and stay buried together. It’s the right thing to do.

Putin, Nemtsov’s Murder, And The Russian Opposition

On February 27 of this year, Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot and killed as he walked in Moscow near the Kremlin. According to this article, Russian investigators have said that Nemtsov may have been a “sacrificial victim.”

The first possibility, the Investigative Committee said, was that the murder was aimed at destabilizing the political situation in the country and Nemtsov was a “sacrificial victim for those who do not shun any method for achieving their political goals.”

This suggestion echoed comments by Putin’s spokesman and other Russian politicians that the attack was a “provocation” against the state.

The term “sacrificial victim” was also the same one Putin used three years ago when he warned that his political opponents were planning to kill one of their own and then blame it on his government.

This idea was so intriguing that I had to research it further. I found this article from February 2012, nearly three years earlier to the date Nemtsov was murdered.

Sounding as if he was quoting from a dusty KGB manual or a bad movie script, Vladi­mir Putin warned Wednesday that his opponents are prepared to murder one of their own so they can blame it on him.

[…]

“They are looking for a so-called sacrificial victim among some prominent figures,” Putin, a former KGB agent, told a gathering of the All-Russia Popular Front, a group organized to support him. “They will knock him off, I beg your pardon, and then blame the authorities for that.”

If you’re curious about other theories of who did it, this article has a summary of the five most popular. One of them has been discussed here. The other is that Putin did it. There are three other interesting ones on the list.

Basically, I find the idea that the opposition had him killed in order to discredit Putin to be so fascinating that I want to stick it in a spy novel that I someday plan to write. It may not be accurate at all in real life, but you can’t deny it makes for great fiction.

Alexandrinskaya Square In The Winter

I’ve had this photo saved for a while and kept forgetting to blog about it because of what’s been going on recently. The past two weeks have been kind of annoying—thought this weekend was really good—so I completely forgot to post this photo of a famous theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. It’s the Alexandrinsky Theatre, situated on what used to be called Alexandrinskaya Square. (The Bolsheviks renamed it, but since I’m a White sympathizer, I’ve decided not to call it by its post-Revolutionary name.) My mom and I saw Swan Lake performed in this theatre when we visited Russia. We were there in the summer, though, so I’d never seen what it looked like in the winter until I saw this photo.

Click to see larger.
Click to see larger.

I found the photo at this entry on the Royal Russia blog. There’s a small writeup about the square, too, which includes this fun fact: this square has St. Petersburg’s only monument to Catherine the Great.

Wednesday Music: Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto

Like Beethoven, whose violin concerto we examined during a prior week, Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky also wrote only one violin concerto. In Beethoven’s case, it’s a shame he only wrote one because the one he wrote is so good. In Tchaikovsky’s case, it’s a bit of a relief he wrote just one because it’s so difficult to play that a second one would probably be twice as daunting!

Here’s a little bit about the famous (or should I say infamous?) Tchaikovsky violin concerto:

  • Tchaikovsky wrote this concerto in 1878 while staying in a resort on the shores of Lake Geneva.
  • The famous violinist Adolph Brodsky premiered the concerto in 1881 in Vienna. Originally, Leopold Auer was supposed play the work. I kind of wish it had been Auer because one of his students was Raphael Bronstein, who in turn taught my first violin teacher.
  • Originally, critics hated the concerto because, in the words of one critic, while playing it the violin is “torn apart.” Luckily, not everyone listened to this critic and today, the concerto is quite popular.

Here’s one of my favorite videos of Russian violinist Viktor Tretyakov playing playing the concerto.

Or click here to see on YouTube

Enjoy! Personally, I quite like the second movement. I worked on it with my violin teacher three years ago and enjoyed it immensely.

Rodina Photo Essay

The much-anticipated (at least by me) TV show Rodina airs tonight for the first time! If you’re in Russia and/or have access to Channel Rossiya, I think it’s at 9:00 in the evening Moscow time. I am so pumped for it, even though I won’t be watching it as it airs (since I’ll be work and don’t have access to Channel Rossiya anyway), so here are some awesome photos from the series.

You can click on any of the photos to see them larger. WordPress has a fun feature that lets you create galleries like this to make your photos pretty.

Watch Russia’s Latest Crimea Documentary

Remember that Crimea documentary I talked about last week? Well, it aired on Sunday night in Russia and is now online! You can watch it here on YouTube, or watch the embedded version below. Unfortunately, it’s only in Russian. I don’t know if it exists with English subtitles yet, or if it ever will.

I’ve watched the first hour of it and it’s really interesting.