NDR Choir / Philipp Ahmann

The NDR Choir under its former chief conductor Philipp Ahmann opens the Stravinsky Festival with a concert marking the 50th anniversary of the composer’s death.

On 6 April 2021, the world of music remembers the 50th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s death. Under its former chief conductor Philipp Ahmann, the NDR Choir heads on a musical journey to important places in the great Russian composer’s life.

From Venice to Los Angeles

Venice, where Stravinsky requested to be buried, became a centre of Italian vocal music in the sixteenth century thanks to masters such as Giovanni Gabrieli and Claudio Monteverdi. Centuries later, that music – along with the sacred music of the Orthodox Church – influenced Stravinsky’s choral work, which is incredibly rich but not that well known. One exception is the often-performed Symphony of Psalms, which is a song of invocation and praise to God in Stravinsky’s distinctive neoclassical style. It was actually composed for an unusual ensemble with a large wind and percussion section on the occasion of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 50th anniversary in 1930. The NDR Choir presents a coronavirus-compatible version based on an arrangement by Stravinsky’s great composer colleague Dmitri Shostakovich, in which the orchestra is replaced by two pianists.

Stravinsky cultivated an interest in music history and the music of the old Italian masters his whole life, even after moving to Los Angeles, and this led to several works based on Carlo Gesualdo’s music from 1956 onwards. Of particular interest in this context is Stravinsky’s adaptation of vocal works by Gesualdo in the »Tres sacrae cantiones«. In it, through a complex process, Stravinsky recomposed voices that had been lost over the course of the centuries. Together with Gesualdo’s »Responsories« and Monteverdi’s Motets, the three extraordinary, highly virtuosic sacred choruses look back from Stravinsky’s perspective to Italy of the early Baroque period.

Igor Stravinsky
An online festival marking the 50th anniversary of the composer’s death, with three live streams from the Elbphilharmonie.

Mariana Popova Mariana Popova © Neda Navaee
Philipp Ahmann Philipp Ahmann © Steven Haberland
NDR Choir NDR Choir © Michael Zapf / NDR


NDR Choir
Christoph Harer violoncello
Mariana Popova piano
Burkhard Kehring piano
Dagmar Lübking organ
direction Philipp Ahmann


Igor Stravinsky
Three Russian Sacred Choruses

Claudio Monteverdi
Four Motets for Mixed Choir and Basso Continuo

Carlo Gesualdo di Venosa
Tenebrae Responsoria (selections)

Carlo Gesualdo di Venosa / Igor Stravinsky
Tres sacrae cantiones

Igor Stravinsky / Dmitri Shostakovich
Symphony of Psalms / Version for Chorus and Four-Hand Piano by Dmitri Shostakovich

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