Hotfoot from an orchestral rehearsal, Vasily Petrenko, Chief Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, delivered a personal account of the history of the Soviet Union and Russia, from the early 1900s to the present day, at LJMU.
Around 40 final year history students attended the informal talk before seeing Petrenko in action on the podium, conducting 100 Years of Revolution, featuring Shostakovich’s 12th Symphony.
During his talk, Petrenko, who was born in Leningrad (now St Petersburg), discussed the tensions that arise within the symphony between two repeating melodies; a tension which could reflect the composer’s views on the 1917 revolution, questioning whether it really was a victory for the people.
Such musical insights align with topics explored by the history students, as they too examine how music – classical, folk, rock, pop, jazz – can be used as a way of gaining a deeper understanding of how people experienced everyday life in the Soviet Union, as well as official attitudes to music as a form of cultural control.
Lecturer Dr Susan Grant explained: "From Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake to Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony, music has been a central feature of Russian and Soviet history. The work of Russian classical music composers including Glinka, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, as well as twentieth century legends Sergei Rachmaninov, Igor Stravinsky and Dmitri Shostakovich, has been intrinsic to how we understand Russian and Soviet culture and society."
Dr Grant continued: "This year marks the centenary of the 1917 revolution, and the cultural revolution that accompanied it. It was an honour to have such a distinguished guest speak to students about his experiences of living in the Soviet Union."
LJMU is a Principal Partner of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and both organisations are committed to providing inspirational opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to get involved in learning, music and the arts. This includes exclusive offers to both classical concerts and other events for LJMU students.
Vasily Petrenko was made an Honorary Fellow of the University in 2012 for services to classical music.