MYASKOVSKY'S LEGACY REVIVED
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.
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
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".
THERE ARE NO WHIZ KIDS AMONG CONDUCTORS
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
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
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
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
WHAT IS THE COST OF INSPIRATION?
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
Copyright © 2001 The Voice of Russia