the 120th anniversary of the birth of Nikolai Miaskovksy
April 20 marked the 120th anniversary of the birth of the Russian composer Nikolai Myaskovsky. (1881-1950).
"The aim of creation is self-sacrifice and not publicity or success" - these lines from a poem by Boris Pasternak perfectly illustrate the live and work of Nikolai Myaskovsky, one of the brightest representatives of the Russian music culture.
In autumn 1906 a young man dressed in sapper's uniform entered the class of the well-known composer Anatoly Lyadov. It was Nikolai Myaskovsky. His decision to enroll in the conservatoire was a daring move on the part of the young sapper. According to the family tradition he was expected to follow in his father's footsteps. For some time he managed to combine military service with music classes, but before long he realized that he must concentrate entirely on music. Later Myaskovsky became a conservatory professor. Among his students were such brilliant musicians as Aram Khachutryan, Vissarion Shebalin and Dmitry Kabalevsky. He devoted much time to editing scores by domestic and foreign composers. His articles for the Music magazine were distinguished by the soundness of judgement and fair criticism. Myaskovsky's legacy comprises 27 symphonies, 13 quartets, sonatas for piano, concertos for violin and cello, lyrical cycles.
Unfortunately, today his music is quite rarely heard. During his lifetime his 5th symphony, for example, caused a real sensation in the world of music. The Moscow premiere was followed by triumphant concerts in Madrid, Prague, Vienna and Chicago. Myaskovsky was somewhat outshone by such renowned 20th century composers as Prokofiev and Shostakovich, although both held him in high esteem. Prokofiev always valued Myaskovsky's opinion. What's more, living abroad, he did much to popularize his music. In his letters he shared his impressions of various interpretations of Myaskovsky's symphonies by Leopold Stokovsky, Alexandr Gauk, Sergey Kusevitsky and other celebrated conductors.
Myaskovsky's music incorporated the best traditions of Russian and West-European music. It is profoundly intellectual. The famous pianist Genrikh Neigauz wrote that "his music is full of thought and that it generates thought".
40 years after Myaskovsky's death conductor Yevgeny Svetlanov made it his duty to revive his undeservedly forgotten legacy. Together with his symphony orchestra he recorded all of Myaskovsky's 27 symphonies and 12 pieces for orchestra. In Svetalnov's opinion, Myaskovksy's legacy doesn't need protection or rehabilitation, it needs attention and propaganda: "His symphonies are an array of emotions, conflicts and reflections that enriched our music culture. His 27th symphony is a true masterpiece".


the 70-th birth anniversary of Gennady Rozhdestvensky

On May 4 the celebrated Russian musician and conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky turned 70. His brilliant conductor's career started more than half a century ago.
"I made my debut at the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory", says Gennady Rozhdestvensky. "Little has changed there since then, the chairs have been replaced and some portraits, too. But I have changed considerably. At the beginning of my career I felt like cutting my way through a rock with my head, hands and feet. The rock symbolizes life. Every orchestra I work with is my ally and a propagator of my ideas".
As a boy, Rozhdestvensky worshipped Prokofiev and prided himself on his close outward resemblance to the great composer. He performed nearly all of Prokofiev's ballets, symphonies, symphonic overtures, cantatas, oratorios and operas.
Rozhdestvensky is convinced that there are no whiz kids among conductors and that one isn't born to become a conductor. Conducting an orchestra involves skills and thoughts that get crystallized in the process of creation. "Conductor's secrets require intuition the eñsense of which lies in the ability to establish contact with people and stimulate their creative drive".
Rozhdestvensky is the host of his own concerts. "When you turn around and see the audience, you realize that you must awaken its feelings and energy, positive or negative, the latter may also be good. It's bad when the audience remains indifferent... "
"In my youth I preferred Rakhmaninov to Tchaikovsky. Then it was the other way round. Tchaikovsky prevailed. But it doesn't mean that Rakhmaninov became less important. Then I discovered Haydn. Last year in Tokyo I completed a large cycle devoted to Haydn. It comprised 107 symphonies. I am very proud of it". Since his birth Rozhdestvensky was surrounded with music. His father, Nikolai Anosov, was a well-known conductor. His mother, Natalia Rozhdestvenskaya, was an opera singer. She recorded concert versions of 53 operas with the Moscow radio opera studio. Gennady Rozhdestvensky's wife, Victoria Postnikova, is a pianist and prize-winner of the Tchaikovsky music contest. His son, Alexandr Rozhdestvensky, is a violinist. He plays the solo part in Vladimir Tarnopolsky's piece "Dedication to Natalia Rozhdestvenskaya".
Gennady Rozhdestvensky worked with many world-famous orchestras. He was chief conductor of the BBC orchestra (1978-1981), the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (the 80s), the Stokholm Philharmonic Orchestra (since 1992). In Russia he directed the Moscow Radio Big Symphony Orchestra. Many of its concerts with Rozhdestvensky's commentaries were broadcast live. In 1965-1970 he was chief conductor of the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre in Moscow. Last year he was appointed the Bolshoi's artistic director and immediately put forward a number of conceptual ideas.
"It would be very interesting to make a performance combining opera and ballet. It would be based, for example, on Igor Stravinsky's works: his ballets Card-Party and Pulcinella, and opera The Nightingale. No opera theatre has ever done anything of the sort.
Next season the Bolshoi Theatre will premiere the ballets Screw by Dmitry Shostakovich, Peer Gynt by Alfred Schnitke, Prometheus by Beethoven, The Buffoon by Sergei Prokofiev, as well as a ballet party to music by Sibelius .


Thoughts about a Round Table of Poets and Patrons of the Art

 By V. Zherdeva
Not long ago prominent Russian poets asked business people to give financial support to several literary journals. In this unusual role of petitioners were people who may safely be described as the cream of Russian poetry, notably, Bella Akhmadulina, Andrei Voznesensky, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Timur Kibirov, and Yevgeny Rein. After the address poets and businessmen met at a round table.
As the Russian book market became increasingly commercialized, poetry dropped out of view of editors and readers. As a result, the past few years have not seen a single prominent poetic name, and not because Russia has suddenly run dry of talent. In the same years many young prose writers have risen to national prominence, for example, last year's Booker Prize winner, Mikhail Shishkin, with his epic novel "Capture of Izmail" or Mikhail Kononov with "Funeral of a Grasshopper". As for poetry, the dramatic situation has, most likely, been created by the poets themselves: many have hidden from the realities of modern life behind the covers of elite literary journals meant for a narrow circle of connoisseurs. To revive an interest in modern poetry among the wide reading public considerable financial backing is needed. And for this the prominent poets have turned to Russian businessmen.
"In the history of Russian culture poetry has always played a special role," says the well-known poet Yevgeny Rein. "It is like a nerve, which responds to every minute change that takes place in the life of society. Not accidentally, such Russian poets as Mayakovsky, Pasternak, Tsvetaeva, Mandelstam, Akhmatova and Brodsky have left the brightest mark in the history of 20th century world culture. Russian poetry is our priceless heritage. But it cannot survive without support. Especially now when cheap mass culture production is gradually washing out the spiritual foundations of society. So we are calling upon you to help poetry, poets and readers by publishing books and contributing to educational projects."
The call has been heard by many Russian businessmen. For example, the head of the Moscow Inter-bank Currency Exchange, Alexander Zakharov, believes that the role that literature will play in society will determine the well-being of this country. He says:
"In the past decade the image of economist and businessman has been predominant in public mind. But we remember different times, when poets were the dominant influence, when the literary evenings at the Polytechnical Museum attracted thousands of people. Now we need to return to the cult of the word. Because it's the word that lies in the basis of ethics, esthetics, and, in the long run, economics."
It is gratifying that many wealthy people are ready to channel their money to the development of culture. All the more so that the patronage of the arts in Russia has long-standing traditions. Before the 1917 revolution merchants and industrialists were willing to donate money to theaters, museums, scientific societies and literary journals. But at the beginning of the 20th century patrons of the arts were modest and entered the literary parlors shy of the celebrities around them. The contemporary, on the contrary, are often proud and self-satisfied. They would treat an artist or writer with condescension, slapping him on the back, oblivious of the fact that people remember the name of the ancient Roman patron of the arts Maecenas only because he helped to the great poet Horace .
4 May 2001

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