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Concert out of time

DECEMBER 2, 2020

Classical music sounds again in the Tretyakov Gallery. The museum project is called the T-festival. It is being held for the third time, under the artistic direction of the composer and pianist Igor Raikhelson.

Chamber music evenings are organized in the Vrubel Hall. According to the director of the gallery, Zemfira Tregulova, there is a very special atmosphere here, a special nature of the relationship between listeners (they are also viewers of paintings) and musicians.

And there is. Event at the closed museum is both artistic, educational and secular. The poster of the festival includes a concert by Mikhail Pletnev, an evening of Aigul Akhmetshina and Pavel Milyukov, and not everything has been announced, surprises are being prepared.

The first concert of the festival was a performance by the Questa Musica orchestra and conductor Philip Chizhevsky, with the participation of singer Svetlana Kasyan. The non-trivial program included Haydn’s Twelfth Symphony, Stravinsky’s Basel Concerto and a cycle of songs by Luciano Berio.

The three-part, without minuet, major symphony, composed according to the “fast-slow-fast” type, was written in 1763, and this is Chizhevsky’s conscious choice – to prefer the young composer’s opus to the more famous later symphonies.

Chamber Haydn (two oboes, bassoon, two French horns and strings) was played with all the details in allegro, andante (with a key change to minor) and presto, with playing out all sorts of atypical accents, “deviations and surprises”, when the originality is considered as the source of one or another musical mood.

But entertaining divertissement, as Haydn’s early symphonies were called, is not always entertaining. The melancholy and pensiveness of the second part of Chizhevsky were almost tragic, the lively third part, as the author intended, returned positive emotions.

The Basel concert, written by Stravinsky for a Swiss order after World War II, became for Chizhevsky both an opposition and a continuation of the mood set by Haydn. There is a calculation hidden behind an elegant brilliance, here is a brilliance disguised as calculation. There is an open warmth in all its nuances, replaced by Stravinsky with a distinctly cold, “metallic” echo, appealing to the detached “universality”.

The orchestra presented the Concerto as a duel of a deliberately banal (2nd movement), on an almost annoying “swinging” of violins, followed by the fatality of feverishly repeated, short and sharp strokes. I remembered the soundtracks for many films: whoever did not draw inspiration from the Basel concert …

Berio’s vocal cycle “Folk Songs” (11 songs for chamber orchestra and mezzo-soprano) is a great rarity in our latitudes. American, Italian, French, Caucasian, many languages ​​and different manners – this is a medley arrangement that Berio laid down at the feet of his wife, the unique singer Keti Berberian.

Svetlana Kasyan sang the cycle at the Moscow concert, and she managed to convey the gaiety and sadness, sensuality and drama, written for the mezzo registers. And also the “technical” ingenuity of the composer, who posed interesting tasks for the flute and viola, which compete with the delights of the voice. After all, Berio had at his disposal such a singer, for whom eternity of love experiences became revelations.

After the concert, Philip Chizhevsky spoke about the choice of the program, the logistics of the concert and his relationship with musical time.

– It seems that the orchestra played with special enthusiasm.

– I think everyone began to appreciate both concerts and rehearsals for them much more than before the pandemic. Every sound played on the instrument is a small miracle. Rehearsal and offline concert is an event.

– How did you become a participant in this project?

– Our friends from the Moscow nights agency offered us to make a concert at the T-Festival. Chamber music is a large part of the repertoire of our collective. Plus – it’s a great opportunity to perform something new.

– Haydn’s early symphonies are relatively rarely played compared to later ones. What attracted you to this music?

– Haydn’s symphonies breathe freshness! I remember once I asked Sofya Gubaidulina with which composer her music would be best combined in one program. And she, without hesitation, answered: “With Haydn.” Indeed, his music blends perfectly with almost any era and stylistic direction.

I also love the three-part cycle in symphonies. Well, why not show the audience absolutely brilliant and unbroken music?

– And the Basel concert?

– As you know, Stravinsky wrote the Basel Concert in Hollywood, there are a lot of various references to popular American music. But at its core a rigid classical construction. Stravinsky’s neoclassicism is sharp, contrasting, ironic, aesthetic. Love!

– After the “dry” Stravinsky – southern emotions of Berio ….

– Berio with an amazing sense of style and colors of sound juggles with all kinds of mixes of timbres. Italians are generally “eared” comrades (remember Charrino with his stunning transcription of Gesualdo’s music “Le Voci Sottovetro”).

The “Folk songs” cycle is extremely exquisite! How elegant Berio treats natural folk with incredible clothes. It is played extremely easily, despite the wild complexity of all the games.

– There are Armenian and Azerbaijani songs in Berio’s “Songs”. Was it important to you now that they would sound almost right next to you?

– The program was formed long before these terrible events. But, really, music is capable of many things, incl. and for the reconciliation of peoples.

– If you study the logistics of the concert, it seems to me that the path was from the mentally rational to the purely rational – and returning back to a new level.

– All works are aesthetic in the program. Here you can trace the line from the author’s symphonic music to folk music through the transformation in Stravinsky. But any “serious” music came out of the folk, so we can talk about some kind of cyclicality. To be honest, this is secondary for me. The main thing is compatibility.

– You recently said: “You can really play old music only when you are aware of what is happening now. We must remember that everything was once new and for the first time ”.

– There is quite a bit of information in the old scores. Tempo, dynamics, decorations, the number of musicians in the continuo group, etc. often not specified. Because everyone knew everything. Almost all music is danceable, the question of the “speed” of performance was not raised – everyone knew these dances could dance, but there are still gradations. Louder, quieter, the length of the note, whether to trill or not – this is directly related to the style of the piece and the taste of the performer.

By the way, this also applies to later music. Orchestral balance, tempo ratios, dynamics of repetitions, other nuances of interpretation … All this needs to be thought out, taking into account the specifics of a particular piece, knowledge of style and traditions, of course, but not allowing museums and naphthalene. With a feeling of freshness and freedom.

In general, I am convinced that there is no time in art. All music is modern, whether it was written ten centuries ago or today.

– If there is no time, is it necessary to strive for “authenticity”?

– You need to strive for quality first of all. Low tuning, string strings and other attributes of authentic performance are not an end in themselves. I love all this very much, but I am calm. I really want to perform Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring on historical, ie. instruments of the early twentieth century.

Maya Krylova