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Thalia Book Club Camp offers up-close interaction with renowned children's book authors and illustrators, book discussions, and book-related field trips around the city. This blog follows the camp's activities.

Stories from Behind the Wall: Sergei Slonimsky

Published on April 27, 2010

I first met Sergei Slonimsky last August during my cultural research fellowship in St. Petersburg supported by the Likhachev Foundation. If his name sounds familiar, he is the nephew of the “Lexicon of Musical Invective” Nicholas Slonimsky. How perfect that the Likhachev offered these fellowships just as I was beginning to plan for the 2010 Wall to Wall. This was a unique and incredible opportunity to go to Russia to conduct research on some aspect of Russian culture to bring back to the U.S. for greater dissemination.

St. PetersburgWhile in St. Petersburg, my goal was to find music and musicians for possible inclusion in Wall to Wall. I spent time at the National Library, the Rimsky Korsakov State Conservatory of Music Library, and with composers, presenters, publishers and performers. I came back to New York with a suitcase full of scores and recordings.

For those of you who know about Wall to Wall, please skip this paragraph, but for those of you who have found us for the first time, please read on. Wall to Wall is Symphony Space’s originating program – it started 32 years ago with an all-day celebration of the music of . Every year since, we have presented a differently themed Wall to Wall – from Beethoven to Miles Davis, Mozart to Sondheim, Gershwin to Stravinsky, and Duke Ellington to John Cage, with Wall to Wall Broadway and Wall to Wall Opera thrown in for good measure. Literally hundreds of New York’s finest musicians assemble each year to participate in that season’s themed program, and each year, thousands come, often standing in line waiting for the chance to hear a segment of the non-stop musical day.

Sergei Slonimsky, now 77 years old, is one of St. Petersburg’s pre-eminent composers coming directly from the Shostakovich lineage, and now a senior composer at the Rimsky Korsakov State Conservatory of Music. He is coming to New York to participate in Wall to Wall Behind the Wall, accompanying the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic on its U.S. debut. The Philharmonic will be presenting the U.S. premiere of Slonimsky’s “Jewish Rhapsody for Piano, String, Flute and Percussion” with renowned soloists Gilbert Kalish on piano and Eugenia Zukerman on flute. The “Jewish Rhapsody” will be the grand finale to our 12 hour marathon of music from the Soviet Era. Mr. Slonimsky will speak briefly to the audience about his piece b efore the premiere. I’m also pleased to note that Gilbert Kalish will travel to St. Petersburg next season to perform the work there; it will be his first trip to Russia, and, in the spirit of cross-cultural dialogue, this is an important collaboration.

Sergi Slominsky’s Concerto Buffo for Chamber Orchestra performed by the Chamber Orchestra of St. Petersburg Philharmonic,
Edward Serov conductor

Also featured will be Slonimsky’s powerful and evocative “Violin Sonata” performed by Laurie Smukler (violin) and Margaret Kampmeier (piano). Other special programming surrounding Mr. Slonimsky’s participation includes the young composer, Timofey Buzina, a former student of Slonimsky’s, also coming from St. Petersburg for the occasion, was commissioned by Symphony Space to compose a dynamic short work to open the last segment of the day, “Rocking Shadows Overture,” featuring the Philharmonic and the Iktus Percussion Quartet.

Timofey Buzina’s Shaman Suite Movement I
performed by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic

Earlier in the day, the Poulenc Trio from Baltimore will be coming to New York to offer the New York premiere of Natalya Medvedoskaya’s “First Snow.” The pianist of the trio is a former student of the St. Petersburg Conservatory, as is the composer (she studied with Slonimsky). Their participation in Wall to Wall Behind the Wall will be a surprise reunion for Mr. Slonimsky.

I hope you will join me in welcoming Sergei and Raisa (his wife) Slonimsky to New York in May.

Slominsky photo credit: Wikipedia

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