Now that the great exodus of Golden Week is over, Japan is already back in harness. Back in the house, back at work, back at school, all caught up in the precipitous pace of the great Japan work ethic. That work ethic is part of what has made this nation the envy of the world.
It may be also a bit exhausting.
Every great performer learns how to pace himself or herself to perform most effectively. It is necessary, naturally, to interpose proper periods of rest, relaxation, and refreshment between prolonged periods of work, work, work.
Our Russian Serenade dinner-concert next weekend offers just such an opportunity, one you can share with those close to you. Even better, it is enticing, entertaining, economical, and just a bit exotic.
The Russian Serenade will be 50th programme in the Tokyo Sinfonia’s perennially popular series of nationally-themed dinner-concert programmes at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. Naturally, we look forward to celebrating that milestone in our history with you, and we’ll find a memorable way to do it.
The Russian Serenade will also be the last dinner-concert event we will present in the FCCJ dining-room on the top floor of the Yurakucho Denki Building. More on that later.
The menu for the evening includes three courses of traditional Russian cuisine.
The aperitif is Baltic Sea Herring and Dill Pickle Salad. The main course is Russian Lamb Shish Kebab. And for desert, the FCCJ executive chef is preparing Siberian Cottage Cheese and Blueberry Pancake. Very Russian.
Coffee and tea will be served to complete the meal, and a cash bar will be open throughout the evening.
Those who visited the Russian Federation often will no doubt have a clear understanding of just what delightful dishes we can expect to enjoy next week. For most of us, we look forward to having our taste buds tantalised with new culinary adventures.
The music is another adventure.
The group of Russian composers known as the “Mighty Handful” felt strongly that they should turn to folklore and folkmusic for inspiration and materials reflecting the colourful language and culture of Russia. Influenced by the works of Mikhail Glinka, considered the fountainhead of Russian music, Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov collectively produced more than 700 titled works in various stages of completion.
From this mighty treasure trove, for our three courses of Russian music, we have selected compositions representing these concepts.
Mily Balakirev’s “Russia,” conceived at age 27, started life as an overture based on folksongs he collected in an expedition up the Volga river. The work became a musical portrait, and 25 years later assumed its final form when it was further revised and published as a symphonic poem. The instrumental colours in his original composition are vivid and offer the orchestra a splendid opportunity to demonstrate its many hues.
Mikhail Glinka composed a work in D minor based on two Russian themes. Written for two pianos in 1824 at age 20, this was Glinka’s second and final attempt at composing a symphony. The work flows in one continuous movement, and, like Balakirev’s composition 40 years later, might be more properly considered a symphonic poem. A Russian symphonic poem.
For a musical finale, we turned to the only composer of the Mighty Handful who works we had known not at all. A general in the Imperial Army, Cesar Cui managed to compose a prolific amount of opera (17 in all), choral and vocal music. Our delightful dessert is the overture to his second opera, “The Son of the Mandarin.”
Think of someone special to invite to join you, and come to the FCCJ dining room high above the sights of downtown Tokyo to be with us for our Russian Serenade dinner-concert. An adventure in concert and cuisine at the FCCJ. It’s quite special. And it’s a bargain. (There is a special group price for tables of 10 or more.)