Concert to showcase post-Stalin music

Stalin’s death in 1953 marked the beginning of a cultural and political thaw that gave way to greater economic, educational and artistic freedoms in Soviet society.

In Leningrad, a seminal performance in 1961 by two towering figures of the day — composer Andrey Volkonsky (1933-2008) and pianist Maria Yudina (1899-1970) — and an attendant program of music previously censored by Soviet rule characterized the resulting new forms of musical expression.

That concert will be replicated Monday, March 30, by the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra’s Community Partnership Program. Titled “Unofficial Leningrad, 1961,” the concert is free and open to the public. It begins at 7 p.m. in the 560 Music Center’s E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall. A reception will follow.

Peter J. Schmelz, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Music, will introduce the program. An authority on 20th-century music produced in Russia and the Soviet Union, Schmelz is the author of “Such Freedom, If Only Musical: Unofficial Soviet Music and Society During the Thaw,” published earlier this month by Oxford University Press. It is the first book to explore this period of musical history in detail.

Celebrated pianist Orli Shaham will perform “Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion.” A consummate musician known internationally for her interpretations of both standard and modern repertoire, Shaham has performed with orchestras around the world and with leading conductors such as Neville Marriner, Roger Norrington and Christopher Hogwood.

Also on stage will be accomplished pianists Johanna Ballou; Maryse Carlin, instructor in WUSTL’s Department of Music and director of The Kingsbury Ensemble; Seth Carlin, professor of music and head of WUSTL’s piano program; Peter Henderson; and Martin Kennedy, assistant professor of theory and composition.

Percussionists are Henry Claude, teacher of applied percussion in the Department of Music; and William James, principal percussion for the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Some of the program pieces were presented in Leningrad well after the time of their composition, reflecting “the process of simultaneous discovery and rediscovery that characterized the ‘thaw,'” Schmelz said. “As a result of the new music, both foreign and domestic, that became available, young Soviet composers felt freer to experiment with new techniques like those of the 12-tone system, then very much in vogue in Europe and America.”

The concert is one of nearly 300 free events the Community Partnership Program of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra presents each year throughout the St. Louis area. The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra Community Partnership Program receives generous support from The Ford Foundation, Monsanto Fund, E. Desmond Lee Fine Arts Education Collaborative, MetLife Foundation and the AT&T Foundation.

For more information, call 935-5566 or e-mail