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Cat. No. CHAN 10201 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10201 - Cui: A Feast in Time of Plague etc.
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Available From: 10 May 2004
In 1899 the centenary of Pushkin’s birth was widely celebrated in Russia. His poems and dramatic works had long served as a rich source of inspiration for Russian composers and a group of four short dramas, known collectively as The Little Tragedies, in which Pushkin explores the human soul when it is pushed to the extreme, proved particularly suitable for dramatic treatment. Cui’s A Feast in Time of Plague was one of these, a setting of Pushkin’s verse which itself was based on a tragic poem by a Scot, John Wilson, and is set at the time of the great plague of London of 1665. A circle of friends gathers for a feast. One chair stands empty, for one of their number has already been carried off by the plague. At this critical moment we are confronted by a grave question: how is fear of death to be overcome? The first solution is fatalistic resignation, as depicted by a poignant Scottish song. The second solution is offered in the ‘Hymn in Honour of the Plague’, a song of resolute defiance which declares ‘There is excitement in a fight and on the edge of an abyss’. The final solution is represented by the appearance of a priest who admonishes the revellers for their feasting and depraved songs, but in vain. Despite all his attempts to convince the group to fix their eyes on heaven, the priest is dismissed.

Cui set the opera without any significant changes to Pushkin’s original text, mostly employing a highly expressive melodic recitative. A Feast in Time of Plague was first heard at the New Theatre in Moscow in November 1901 and then in 1902 at the Bolshoi Theatre.
Reviews

'It is fluently done, with some entertaining orchestral invention which Polyansky and the players handle colourfully.'
Gramophone

It is fluently done, with some entertaining orchestral invention which Polyansky and the players handle colourfully.
Gramophone

Once again Kuznetsova is on sparkling form in Fair Spring. But the soprano Tatiana Sharova brings real drama to Les Deux Ménétriers…
International Record Review

'London's great plague dramaticised by Pushkin and set to music of primary Slavic colours by ex-military engineer Cui. A feast for the musically adventurous.'
Classic FM Magazine

 

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