Prince Rostislav, Tone Poem after Alexey K. Tolstoi (new edition)
(b. Semjonovo near Staraya Russa/Novgorod, 20 March/1 April 1873 – d. Beverly Hills, 28 March 1943)
Tone Poem after Alexey K. Tolstoi
’Prince Rostislav’ after the eponymous poem by Alexey Konstantinovich Tolstoi (1817-85) is Sergey Rachmaninoff’s first tone poem. After the beginning of his education at the Moscow Conservatory in 1885, he had finished two orchestral works: a Scherzo in 1887, and his First Piano Concerto in F-sharp minor Op. 1 (1890-91, in its still occasionally performed original version). But then he fell ill due to a meningitis infection, and at the same he approached the deadline of his final examination at the conservatory to a threatening point: He had to present a new orchestral work to pass the exam. Consequently after his recovery he wrote his 18-minute tone poem ’Prince Rostislav’ within a timeframe of only seven days from 9 to 15 December 1891. This work in its simple facture and shaping strikes with polished craftsmanship and excellent orchestration, and inspite of its obvious reminiscences of Tchaikovsky impresses with an melancholically abysmal and murky tonal language that is unmistakably Rachmaninoffian.
The work is based on a ballad by Alexey Tolstoi that emerged from a fragment of the famous Slavonic legend of Prince Igor (’The Lay of Prince Igor’s Campaign’, anonymously written in the 12th century).
In the 11th century in Central Ukrainian Pereyaslavl Prince Rostislav is defeated in the battle and is drowned on the run in river Stuhna. From the bottom of the river he tries in vain to make himself heard. The events of the past re-emerge, and he sends out three three plaintive cries to his wife (who is remarried), to his brother, and to the clerics in Kiev. But he hast o accept his powerlessness, he has no voice anymore in this world. His extinguishing soul lives on in the world of the water nymphs, on the other side, irreversibly deprived of its vital part.
Harmonically the work provides particular evidence of Rachmaninoff’s brisk passion for augmented triads, for the undetermined and implosive energetics of this gateway into enharmonics – thoroughly adequate with the drama of drowning. The shape of the whole work is immediately comprehensible and heads for a cathartic climax. After this inflection point the resigning melancholy of the beginning returns.
Rachmaninoff never heard his ’Prince Rostislav’. Two years after his death the Moscow Philharmonic under Nikolai Anosov (1900-62) gave its first performance. Score and parts were printed in Moscow in 1947 – yet on a quality level musicians ever since perceived as problematic. Therefore, at the suggestion of the composer Andrei Golovin (b. 1950), we herewith present this new edition of score and parts realized by Marius Hristescu.
Christoph Schlüren, July 2017
For performance material please contact Musikproduktion Höflich (www.musikmph.de), Munich.
225 x 320 mm