From Russia with love
From the courts of St. Petersburg to Haydn’s Vienna
Finnish Baroque Orchestra
The new capital of the Russian empire, Saint Petersburg was built on the delta of the river Neva after Tsar Peter the Great had seen the impressive old cities of Western Europe. In the course of 18th century numerous architects, sculptors, painters, composers, and musicians from Southern and Central Europe were invited by the emperors to the city for developing the cultural life of the new capital. During the golden era of Catherine the Great (1762-1796) the arts flourished in the Northern metropole. Italians dominated the musical life of Saint Petersburg, among them some of the greatest opera composers of the time, Giovanni Paisiello and Domenico Cimarosa.
In the second half of the 18th century there were increasingly also Russian-born musicians and composers. Dmytro Bortniansky studied under the guidance of Baldassare Galuppi whom Catherine the Great had invited from Venice to the Russian court. After a longer stay in Italy Bortniansky returned to Saint Petersburg in 1779 and became later the director of the imperial choir.
In 1781 the son of Catherine the Great, Gran Duke Paul and his wife, German-born Grand Duchesse Maria Feodorovna travelled through Europe to visit the most important courts of the time. In Vienna Emperor Joseph II received them and organized a variety of programme for the imperial guests. On Christmas Day a very special concert was being arranged in the Hofburg. That evening Joseph Haydn presented his recently completed string quartets (op. 33) and dedicated them later to Paul (”dediés au gran Duc de Russie”).
From Vienna Paul and Maria Feodorovna travelled to Venice where they met the aged Baldassare Galuppi in the winter 1782. Galuppi had worked in St.Petersburg 1765-1768 as court composer.
Maria Feodorovna was a skilled keyboard player, and during their visit in Vienna Haydn also gave her musical instructions. Years after the grand duchess, by then tsarina of Russia, still spoke enthusiastically about their meeting. She wrote to Haydn in 1804:
” – – I remembered with joy that I had met you personally in Vienna. (– –)
– – I beg you to regard the enclosed rememberance [a ring] as a token of my sincere good wishes, with which I am, as always, Your ever well-disposed.”
Duration: 1 h 30 min (incl. intermission)
Petteri Pitko introduces the concert in the café in Kanneltalo at 18.15–18.45.