The tradition of Russian wedding songs and elaborations by Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Bartòk. Wednesday “The Wedding” with the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble for the first time in Italy.

An extraordinary concert featuring for the first time in Italy the Ensemble Dmitri Pokrovsky, the Russian folk-singing ensemble founded in Moscow in 1973 by musician, scientist, and scholar of Russian national culture Dmitry Pokrovsky, and the first professional musical ensemble to perform in authentic traditional style wearing peasant dress. It will take place on Wednesday 2 March at 8.30 pm at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo.

On the programme is a grand journey through the tradition of south-western Russian wedding songs and their historical elaborations. It will start with fragments from the peasant folk wedding repertoire to arrive at Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Little Russia” and then to Stravinsky’s Les noces and Bartók’s Falún, compositions that contain precise references to the peasant folk music linked to the celebration of weddings. Leading the Orchestra of the Teatro Massimo is Daniel Kawka, music director of the Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain and the Orchestra Ose, as well as principal guest conductor of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, with whom he develops and deepens the great classical, romantic and modern works, covering a period from the 18th to the 21st century.

Marriage in rural communities was a complex ritual, involving musical pieces and characters intervening as in a ‘drama’. In south-west Russia, the rite consisted of three main moments: the choice, the engagement and the actual wedding ceremony, all marked by songs and music with a precise symbolic and ritual connotation. ‘Little Russia’ (a name for Ukraine, then called by this name) was composed in 1872. It is the work with which Tchaikovsky temporarily reconnected with the ‘Group of Five’ who reproached him for his closeness to the musical tradition of Western Europe and its academic conventions. The Symphony in C minor in fact makes extensive use of popular themes from the Ukraine.

The ‘Group of Five’ liked Tchaikovsky’s choice not only to make use of popular themes, but also to let these themes influence the form of the composition. The Symphony was later reworked by Tchaikovsky in 1879. Les noces is one of the first Stravinsky productions to use Russian folk themes, placing it in the furrow of a long tradition: at the beginning of the 20th century, in fact, folk music had already been not only collected and studied, but had constituted the lifeblood of the great Russian composers for decades, from Glinka to Musorgsky to Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky’s teacher, not forgetting Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky’s favourite musician.

The situation was quite different in Hungary, where folk music had not enjoyed any attention until Bartók and Zoltán Kodály took up the study of real folk music, touring the countryside and transcribing the songs they had collected. In his Autobiography, Bartók recounts this period: “I recognised that the Hungarian songs mistakenly believed to be popular were in fact more or less trivial author’s songs, which did not offer much of interest. So in 1905 I began to investigate peasant Hungarian music, which until then was almost completely unknown’.