NYFOS logo

Tchaikovsky: Amid the din of the ball

This week’s Song of the Day is hosted by Jesse Blumberg and Donna Breitzer, the Artistic Director and Executive Director, respectively, of Five Boroughs Music Festival.

It’s great to be back hosting Song of the Day, and Donna and I are excited to share some previews of our upcoming co-presentations with NYFOS next month!  I thought I’d start it off with one of my all-time favorite songs EVER, which somehow happens to be featured in Manning the Canon.  When Steve Blier and I first discussed this program over ten years ago, we knew we wanted to include a piece by Tchaikovsky, and I must’ve put this one forward, though I can’t remember exactly if he did as well.  Steve was looking for songs not only by gay composers, but ones that he felt could illuminate a theme or experience of gay life.  He contextualized this song beautifully for me, as not just a missed encounter at a social event, but as secret, forbidden attraction that grows into a haunting keep-you-up-at-night fixation… “Do I love you? I do not know.  But it seems that I do.”

“Amid the din of the ball” was one of the first songs I learned after my first lessons in Russian diction at CCM with Ken Griffiths.  I was drawn to its dreamlike waltz feel, its elusive but somehow incredibly vivid images from strophe to strophe, and the way Tchaikovsky spins his gorgeous melodic gifts from a noisy ballroom into a solitary bedroom. I had the pleasure of performing this song with Steve in two sets of Manning the Canon performances years back, and I really can’t wait to hear him waltz with the fantastic Efraín Solís on June 25th.  

Here’s a version by the late, great Dmitri Hvorostovksy, with pianist Ivari Ilja:

Stay tuned for more songs from Jesse, Donna, and 5BMF this week!

Sergei Taneyev: The Restless Heart Is Beating

My Tchaikovsky concert isn’t till early next year, but I want to get it squared away now before the autumn hits me like a ton of bricks. Having decided to include a little group of songs by Tchaik’s teachers and students, I received some expert guidance from Antonina Chehovska, the soprano soloist for the project. She had wonderful ideas for Rubenstein, Arensky, and Taneyev, and I appreciated her promptness and her enthusiasm. Following up her suggestions, one thing (the online music library IMSLP) led to another (YouTube and Spotify) and I soon came across this beauty by Taneyev: “The Restless Heart Is Beating,” a song that combines elegance with driving passion. I would describe it as a Slavic version Schubert’s “Die junge Nonne,” or perhaps his “An Schwager Kronos” relocated to the Steppes. Taneyev was a superb songwriter, and that makes choosing just one or two a kind of sweet torture. But I can hear baritone Alexey Lavrov tearing my heart out with this piece, and I think I’m going with it.

By the way: I try to make it a practice to buy actual copes of music I want to program after I have rooted around IMSLP.  And the best place to do that is at Glendower Jones’ e-emporium, Classical Vocal Reprints. But of course, you knew that.

Here are Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Ivari Ilja flaunting their fabulosity in this song:

New York Festival of Song • One Penn Plaza • #6108 • New York, NY 10119 • 646-230-8380 • info@nyfos.org