Amsterdam Sinfonietta: Debussy, Mussorgsky, Weinberg and Shostakovich

10 Apr 2012

Written by: Renée Reitsma

Published in: Bachtrack

“Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death is a work that has been orchestrated many times by great names including Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov and Shostakovich, which made me very curious as to what Theo Verbey’s 1994 orchestration would sound like. It stayed rather close to the original piano score (definitely more so than, for example, Shostakovich’s orchestration – which sounds as much like Shostakovich as it does Mussorgsky). This meant that the orchestra played a subdued role, which the Amsterdam Sinfonietta did surprisingly effectively. This allowed for the real star of the evening, mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn to become the focal point. Stotijn is an incredible singer: her voice is clear, warm and powerful and her stage presence is mesmerizing. But what made this performance memorable was her understanding and execution of the songs. In the first song, ‘Lullaby’, Stotijn demonstrated the different characters, the mother and Death, with intonation and body language, and she continued this throughout the song cycle. This meant that even for someone who does not understand a word of Russian, it is entirely clear what the songs mean and what is going on. Mussorgsky’s figure of Death has many different faces; he is seductive, soothing, aggressive, even joyful – and all of these elements were present in Stotijn’s performance.”