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«Frantz» Франсуа Озона

В этой картине сходятся черное и белое (хотя невзначай, того и гляди, вдруг проглянет цветное исподнее), витальное и мортальное, французское и немецкое. Персонажи переходят с одного языка на другой и обратно, зрят природу в цвете от избытка чувств, мерещат невесть откуда воскресших юношей, играющих на скрипке, и вообще чувствуют себя неуютно на этом черно-белом свете. Французы ненавидят немцев, а немцы французов, ибо действие происходит аккурат после Первой мировой. Разрушенный войной комфортный мир сместил систему тоник и доминант, и Франсуа Озон поочередно запускает в наши (д)уши распеваемую народным хором «Марсельезу» и исполняемую оркестром Парижской оперы «Шехерезаду» Римского-Корсакова. На территории мучительного диссонанса, сдобренного не находящим разрешения тристан-аккордом, и обретаются герои фильма. Оттого распутать немецко-французскую головоломку зрителю удается далеко не сразу. 

«Патерсон» Джима Джармуша

В этом фильме всё двоится: стихотворец Патерсон и городишко Патерсон, bus driver и Адам Драйвер, волоокая иранка Лаура и одноименная муза Петрарки, японец Ясудзиро Одзу и японец Масатоси Нагасэ, черно-белые интерьеры и черно-белые капкейки, близнецы и поэты. Да, здесь все немножко поэты, и в этом как раз нет ничего странного. Потому что Джармуш и сам поэт, и фильмы свои он складывает как стихи. Звуковые картины, настоянные на медитации, на многочисленных повторах, на вроде бы рутине, а в действительности – на нарочитой простоте мироздания. Ибо любой поэт, даже если он не поэт, может начать всё с чистого листа.

Сцены из супружеской жизни

Театр «Гешер» совместно с тель-авивским Камерным поставили спектакль на вечный сюжет Ингмара Бергмана – «Сцены из супружеской жизни». По химическому составу крови этот спектакль довольно схож с бергмановским оригиналом; вероятно, оттого столь естественна игра двух актеров, Итая Тирана и Эфрат Бен-Цур. До того, что её и игрой-то сложно назвать, а если и так, то игрой в высшей совершенной степени.
Режиссер постановки Гилад Кимхи не только исследует под микроскопом грамматику эмоций, механизмы связи между мужчиной и женщиной – он, вслед за Бергманом, производит аутопсию современной супружеской жизни вообще. И жизнь эта, тесная и душная, как чужой ботинок, засасывает в себя зрителя. В ботинке к тому же оказывается камешек, и это уже сущий ад. «Ад – это другие», говорил Сартр. «Но когда другие перестают вам принадлежать, ад становится раем», мог бы сказать Бергман.

Раннего Шекспира, или «Как вам это понравится»

В тель-авивском Камерном театре играют пьесу «Как вам это понравится» в постановке Уди Бен-Моше. Точнее, ломают комедию, где при дворе свергнутого герцога плетутся интриги, а в заповедном лесу бродят счастливые и далекие от политики & практической жизни странники, изгнанники, философствующие актеры. В пространстве «дворец» – холод и тьма, люди с лицами наемных убийц; в пространстве «лес» – листва, и поэзия, и овечки с лицами добрых клоунов. Видеоарт и селфи, юмор века катастроф и скоростей – в переводе Дана Альмагора есть место дню сегодняшнему. И это нормально, думается, Шекспир бы оценил.

«Ужасных родителей» Жана Кокто

Необычный для нашего пейзажа режиссер Гади Ролл поставил в Беэр-Шевском театре спектакль о французах, которые говорят быстро, а живут смутно. Проблемы – вечные, старые, как мир: муж охладел к жене, давно и безвозвратно, а она не намерена делить сына с какой-то женщиной, и оттого кончает с собой. Жан Кокто, драматург, поэт, эстет, экспериментатор, был знаком с похожей ситуацией: мать его возлюбленного Жана Маре была столь же эгоистичной.
Сценограф Кинерет Киш нашла правильный и стильный образ спектакля – что-то среднее между офисом, складом, гостиницей, вокзалом; место нигде. Амир Криеф и Шири Голан, уникальный актерский дуэт, уже много раз создававший настроение причастности и глубины в разном материале, достойно отыгрывает смятенный трагифарс. Жан Кокто – в Беэр-Шеве.

Новые сказки для взрослых

Хоть и пичкали нас в детстве недетскими и отнюдь не невинными сказками Шарля Перро и братьев Гримм, знать не знали и ведать не ведали мы, кто все это сотворил. А началось все со «Сказки сказок» - пентамерона неаполитанского поэта, писателя, солдата и госчиновника Джамбаттисты Базиле. Именно в этом сборнике впервые появились прототипы будущих хрестоматийных сказочных героев, и именно по этим сюжетам-самородкам снял свои «Страшные сказки» итальянский режиссер Маттео Гарроне. Правда, под сюжетной подкладкой ощутимо просматриваются Юнг с Грофом и Фрезером, зато цепляет. Из актеров, коих Гарроне удалось подбить на эту авантюру, отметим Сальму Хайек в роли бездетной королевы и Венсана Касселя в роли короля, влюбившегося в голос старушки-затворницы. Из страннейших типов, чьи портреты украсили бы любую галерею гротеска, - короля-самодура (Тоби Джонс), который вырастил блоху до размеров кабана под кроватью в собственной спальне. Отметим также невероятно красивые с пластической точки зрения кадры: оператором выступил поляк Питер Сушицки, явно черпавший вдохновение в иллюстрациях старинных сказок Эдмунда Дюлака и Гюстава Доре.
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Андре Рьё с «Оркестром Иоганна Штрауса»

Не имеющий аналогов и подобий, а значит, бесподобный голландский скрипач и дирижер Андре Рьё (André Rieu) со своим «Оркестром Иоганна Штрауса» впервые пожалует в Израиль. В принципе, если не знать о том, что Рьё существует на самом деле, можно было бы заподозрить, что он – не человек, а сплошная мистификация. Во-первых, титул «король вальса», который вроде бы принадлежит музыканту из раньших времен. Во-вторых, живет он в маастрихтском замке, где завтракал д'Артаньян в тот самый день, когда ему суждено было пасть в бою за Людовика XIV. В-третьих, живые концерты Рьё & оркестра украшают своим присутствием дамы в кринолинах a la Кандинский. Далее можно сбиться со счета, ибо на сцене в оных же концертах бьют фонтаны, возникают из ниоткуда сказочные дворцы, расстилаются ледовые катки, спускаются сверху воздушные шары, катятся золотые кареты и прочая, прочая. Ну так вот: один из подобных (сиречь бесподобных) живых концертов нам выпадет возможность наблюдать 4 апреля 2018 года во дворце «Менора Мивтахим» в Тель-Авиве.

«Богему» в Израильской опере

Израильская опера открывает сезон пуччиниевской «La Bohème» под управлением дирижера Франческо Чиллуффо. К музыке прилагается вполне убедительный визуальный ряд: беспроигрышный оперный хит раннего Пуччини в режиссуре Стефано Мадзониса ди Пралафера и сценографии Карло Сала трансформируется из истории бедной модистки Мими в ящик Пандоры, откуда сыплются не только несчастья, но и всевозможные сюрпризы. Стильная пестрота рыночной толпы, дети, полицейские, бродячий цирк, рождественский пир в кафе «Момюс», морозное утро у городской заставы, дворники и молочницы, стылая полутемная мансарда на втором уровне, настоящий автомобиль, пробирающийся по узким улочкам и прочая, прочая. В партии Мими – Алла Василевицкая, Рудольфа – Алексей Долгов, Марселя – Витторио Вителли, Мюзетты – Хила Баджио, Коллена – Николас Броунли, Шонара – Йонут Паску.
С 22 ноября по 8 декабря.

Kutiman Mix the City

Kutiman Mix the City – обалденный интерактивный проект, выросший из звуков города-без-перерыва. Основан он на понимании того, что у каждого города есть свой собственный звук. Израильский музыкант планетарного масштаба Офир Кутель, выступающий под псевдонимом Kutiman, король ютьюбовой толпы, предоставляет всем шанс создать собственный ремикс из звуков Тель-Авива – на вашей собственной клавиатуре. Смикшировать вибрации города-без-перерыва на интерактивной видеоплатформе можно простым нажатием пальца (главное, конечно, попасть в такт). Приступайте.

Видеоархив событий конкурса Рубинштейна

Все события XIV Международного конкурса пианистов имени Артура Рубинштейна - в нашем видеоархиве! Запись выступлений участников в реситалях, запись выступлений финалистов с камерными составами и с двумя оркестрами - здесь.

Альбом песен Ханоха Левина

Люди на редкость талантливые и среди коллег по шоу-бизнесу явно выделяющиеся - Шломи Шабан и Каролина - объединились в тандем. И записали альбом песен на стихи Ханоха Левина «На побегушках у жизни». Любопытно, что язвительные левиновские тексты вдруг зазвучали нежно и трогательно. Грустинка с прищуром, впрочем, сохранилась.
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«Год, прожитый по‑библейски» Эя Джея Джейкобса

...где автор на один год изменил свою жизнь: прожил его согласно всем законам Книги книг.

«Подозрительные пассажиры твоих ночных поездов» Ёко Тавада

Жизнь – это долгое путешествие в вагоне на нижней полке.

Скрюченному человеку трудно держать равновесие. Но это тебя уже не беспокоит. Нельзя сказать, что тебе не нравится застывать в какой-нибудь позе. Но то, что происходит потом… Вот Кузнец выковал твою позу. Теперь ты должна сохранять равновесие в этом неустойчивом положении, а он всматривается в тебя, словно посетитель музея в греческую скульптуру. Потом он начинает исправлять положение твоих ног. Это похоже на внезапный пинок. Он пристает со своими замечаниями, а твое тело уже привыкло к своему прежнему положению. Есть такие части тела, которые вскипают от возмущения, если к ним грубо прикоснуться.

«Комедию д'искусства» Кристофера Мура

На сей раз муза-матерщинница Кристофера Мура подсела на импрессионистскую тему. В июле 1890 года Винсент Ван Гог отправился в кукурузное поле и выстрелил себе в сердце. Вот тебе и joie de vivre. А все потому, что незадолго до этого стал до жути бояться одного из оттенков синего. Дабы установить причины сказанного, пекарь-художник Люсьен Леззард и бонвиван Тулуз-Лотрек совершают одиссею по богемному миру Парижа на излете XIX столетия.
В романе «Sacré Bleu. Комедия д'искусства» привычное шутовство автора вкупе с псевдодокументальностью изящно растворяется в Священной Сини, подгоняемое собственным муровским напутствием: «Я знаю, что вы сейчас думаете: «Ну, спасибо тебе огромное, Крис, теперь ты всем испортил еще и живопись».

«Пфитц» Эндрю Крами

Шотландец Эндрю Крами начертал на бумаге план столицы воображариума, величайшего града просвещения, лихо доказав, что написанное существует даже при отсутствии реального автора. Ибо «язык есть изощреннейшая из иллюзий, разговор - самая обманчивая форма поведения… а сами мы - измышления, мимолетная мысль в некоем мозгу, жест, вряд ли достойный толкования». Получилась сюрреалистическая притча-лабиринт о несуществующих городах - точнее, существующих лишь на бумаге; об их несуществующих жителях с несуществующими мыслями; о несуществующем безумном писателе с псевдобиографией и его существующих романах; о несуществующих графах, слугах и видимости общения; о великом князе, всё это придумавшем (его, естественно, тоже не существует). Рекомендуется любителям медитативного погружения в небыть.

«Тинтина и тайну литературы» Тома Маккарти

Что такое литературный вымысел и как функционирует сегодня искусство, окруженное прочной медийной сетью? Сей непростой предмет исследует эссе британского писателя-интеллектуала о неунывающем репортере с хохолком. Появился он, если помните, аж в 1929-м - стараниями бельгийского художника Эрже. Неповторимый флёр достоверности вокруг вымысла сделал цикл комиксов «Приключения Тинтина» культовым, а его герой получил прописку в новейшей истории. Так, значит, это литература? Вроде бы да, но ничего нельзя знать доподлинно.

«Неполную, но окончательную историю...» Стивена Фрая

«Неполная, но окончательная история классической музыки» записного британского комика - чтиво, побуждающее мгновенно испустить ноту: совершенную или несовершенную, голосом или на клавишах/струнах - не суть. А затем удариться в запой - книжный запой, вестимо, и испить эту чашу до дна. Перейти вместе с автором от нотного стана к женскому, познать, отчего «Мрачный Соломон сиротливо растит флоксы», а правая рука Рахманинова напоминает динозавра, и прочая. Всё это крайне занятно, так что... почему бы и нет?
Что попробовать

Тайские роти

Истинно райское лакомство - тайские блинчики из слоеного теста с начинкой из банана. Обжаривается блинчик с обеих сторон до золотистости и помещается в теплые кокосовые сливки или в заварной крем (можно использовать крем из сгущенного молока). Подается с пылу, с жару, украшенный сверху ледяным кокосовым сорбе - да подается не абы где, а в сиамском ресторане «Тигровая лилия» (Tiger Lilly) в тель-авивской Сароне.

Шомлойскую галушку

Легендарная шомлойская галушка (somlói galuska) - винтажный ромовый десерт, придуманный, по легенде, простым официантом. Отведать ее можно практически в любом ресторане Будапешта - если повезет. Вопреки обманчиво простому названию, сей кондитерский изыск являет собой нечто крайне сложносочиненное: бисквит темный, бисквит светлый, сливки взбитые, цедра лимонная, цедра апельсиновая, крем заварной (патисьер с ванилью, ммм), шоколад, ягоды, орехи, ром... Что ни слой - то скрытый смысл. Прощай, талия.

Бисквитную пасту Lotus с карамелью

Классическое бельгийское лакомство из невероятного печенья - эталона всех печений в мире. Деликатес со вкусом карамели нужно есть медленно, миниатюрной ложечкой - ибо паста так и тает во рту. Остановиться попросту невозможно. Невзирая на калории.

Шоколад с васаби

Изысканный тандем - горький шоколад и зеленая японская приправа - кому-то может показаться сочетанием несочетаемого. Однако распробовавшие это лакомство считают иначе. Вердикт: правильный десерт для тех, кто любит погорячее. А также для тех, кто недавно перечитывал книгу Джоанн Харрис и пересматривал фильм Жерара Кравчика.

Торт «Саркози»

Как и Париж, десерт имени французского экс-президента явно стоит мессы. Оттого и подают его в ресторане Messa на богемной тель-авивской улице ха-Арбаа. Горько-шоколадное безумие (шоколад, заметим, нескольких сортов - и все отменные) заставляет поверить в то, что Саркози вернется. Не иначе.

Nikolai Lugansky: “In music it is impossible to say where you won and where you lost”

20.04.2018Lina Goncharsky

The St Petersburg Philharmonic, Nikolai Lugansky and Yuri Temirkanov celebrate the country’s 70th independence anniversary

Nikolai Lugansky is a pianist next to impossible in the circumstances of today’s Universe. A maestro of grand concert style, his play is as exquisite as it is insightful, as elegant as it is emotional, as spatial as it is wise. One is always left to wonder how many unexpected things one is in for in the course of the play and how amazing the unravelling story will be.

I would argue that Lugansky’s recognition lies in the sombre poetics of the top-notch calibre. Add to that the charm of flawless romanticism, aloofness and out-of-this-worldness, exquisiteness and aristocratism, sophisticated lightness and non-elementarity. He is from the non-Euclidean space where what matters is not what but who is playing. Even time will corroborate that.

— Nikolai, with Rachmaninov it’s kind of a special thing because there are recordings of his own performances... When one’s fingers touch somebody’s music, one wants to feel the composer’s thought behind it. Here, there is no need to feel — one may simply listen and try and perceive. How about ‘one’s own play’ then?

— Honestly, I’ve never seen any problem here. A piece of music exists in different manifestations — in the form of sheet music, recordings and concert performances, but the main thing is that it has its own existence. It is a living thing, and therefore it is the same and yet slightly different now from what it will be in fifty years’ time or what it was a hundred years ago. I listen to Rachmaninov’s recordings and enjoy them immensely — but it is artistic enjoyment and by no means an instruction. For work, I have his sheet music. Well, maybe subconsciously it does have an impact but consciously — clearly not.
I will agree that Rachmaninov as a pianist is above nearly all those who lived in the twentieth century. I think that he, purely outwardly, influenced Michelangeli and Pletnev, and especially — tempo-wise — Zoltán Kocsis (a great Hungarian pianist who unfortunately passed away last year). I adore Rachmaninov’s recordings, including as a conductor, but I don’t think it affects my play in any way.

— And yet your performance of Rachmaninov’s works is considered to be the benchmark — it is written everywhere and by everybody. But, come to think of it, what is a benchmark?

— Wasn’t it Faust who said: “It’s absurd, impossible for me to rate the words so highly…” Let them write... If people wanted to say something nice about me, I am grateful and it gives me a lot of pleasure. But discussing it seriously... Another thing if you asked me whose performance of Rachmaninov I find adorable other than Rachmaninov’s himself  — although his performance anyway stands apart, — there’s Michelangeli’s recording of Concerto  No4, there’s Horowitz, there’s Gilels, Richter has some preludes. But I don’t believe there’s anything like the benchmark. The work itself, as well as the performance itself, lives in this concert hall and on this piano, tomorrow — in another concert hall and on another piano, and it will already be a slightly different performance, therefore, a different piece of music, and the performer will be slightly different, too... That is why one can strive for some sort of a benchmark of their own, which may inwardly be changing unbeknownst to them, but it is unattainable.

— What is your attitude to experiments of the kind attempted by Alexander Warenberg, a pianist-arranger who, prompted by Rachmaninov’s grandson, turned the Second Symphony into the Fifth Piano Concerto? Do you think Sergei Vasilievich would approve of a rebranding like that?

— I think such experiments are perfectly permissible, as to whether Rachmaninov would approve... Well, most likely he would take it with a sneer and not say a word. He was a rather reserved and venomous man. Let me be honest, what I heard left me unimpressed but an experiment like that suggests that Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony is the kind of music that everybody wants to attach themselves to. Take Bach, for instance. How many things have been created based on his ‘Badinerie’ from Orchestral Suite No. 2, or the alto aria from the St. Matthew Passion! Some people are in raptures, some are indifferent, but what it goes to show is that this music is of such a dimension that everybody wants to have a finger in it. Sometimes it comes off great, most frequently it is charmingly naïve, sometimes ridiculous, but nearly everybody wants to be a co-creator. In my view, Rachmaninov’s symphonic version sounds better but the other version is wonderful, too. It’s just the kind of music that can take very different adaptations.

— It is rewarding, though, that remakes fail to outshine the original — it’s like a tattoo on the musical memory which cannot be erased... For you personally, who did the great composers who wrote for the piano end with? Or do they continue?

— Most likely they continue. They may have ended for me but this rather suggests that we are lazy and incurious. This is a philosophical question. The last composers, whose works — each and every work — I adore, are certainly Rachmaninov, Ravel, that’s sheer classics, then Richard Strauss, Prokofiev, Bartok. Shostakovich has a huge amount of music which I admire but not indiscriminately, one or two pieces by Schnittke, Songs of Kursk by Sviridov... But you asked me about piano music. Actually, it’s even more complicated there. For instance, I played Pletnev’s Capriccio. It is so polystylistical but there are parts which are close to avant-garde although it’s his very old composition. Some of the things I heard were of interest to me. For example, the recent music which did touch some chords in me was two piano concertos by Scottish composer James MacMillan. Although the role of the piano in them is not as important as the role of the orchestra — it is incredibly colourful. But still my music is probably not from the last fifty years. I played rather little of Albéniz, although for the piano he is a composer nearly of the same dimension as Liszt and Rachmaninov. There is Russian music of the early twentieth century — Glazunov and Medtner, for sure, and Katuar, and northern music — Sibelius, Nielsen... I’d be happy to play Nielsen, his Chaconne and some small pieces. There is a lot of great music, it’s just impossible to embrace the unembraceable… Anyway, I’m a little conservative in my affections, what can I do.

— By the way, I heard that you are one of those very rare children who himself wanted to study music. Is that true?

— That is true but it was only recently that I learned that it’s rather an exception than a rule.  My own children are a case in point. I was sure that if there is a piano at home, it is simply bound to attract to itself to pick out tunes on it... But it proved wrong. They didn’t want to.  My case was different. My dad was a physicist, he was born in a village in the Kaluga region, my mum was a chemist, she was born in Dushanbe, Central Asia, where her family had been evacuated to during the Second World War. They met in Moscow where my dad was a student at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology in Dolgoprudny and my mum at the Chemistry Department of the Moscow State University. They got married and had two sons, I am the second one. They loved music and even had ten to twelve records of classical music. I don’t remember everything but I remember Maria Grinberg playing Beethoven’s sonatas and Bella Davidovich playing Chopin. These were my first great affections. My parents sang popular bards’ songs, Okudzhava for one, dad doing the guitar, — typical representatives of the sixties ‘thaw’. I was born in 1972 but dad said he would never ever send the boy to learn to play music because he’d seen kids denied their childhood because of that and the horror in those children’s eyes when they were expected to show up in front of the instrument. Dad loved (and still loves — my parents are, thank God,  alive and relatively healthy) to always learn something new, for example, in that village near Kaluga he learned English and German on his own — his childhood was far from simple, his father fought in the war, was taken POW, when he came home his freedom lasted only four years before he was arrested again and did five years in a labour camp, from 1950 to 1955, was released under an amnesty but was rehabilitated only in 1989. Well, a usual story. Dad bought me a small piano and began picking out the tune of the popular song “Let the Sun Always Shine”. I was five at the time and I told him that he kept picking the wrong note. He got curious and it turned out that I had AP — absolute pitch. As a practising physicist he was convinced that it the talk about AP was the media’s trick to fool people. But when he made sure I did have absolute pitch he was naturally impressed and took me to our summer house neighbour, a professional musician and an extremely interesting person, — that’s how I began studying music. 

— And began by studying on your own? When was it that the image of a teacher appeared in your life?

— Well, the summer neighbour was the first such guru. He had a piano and he could play. The person who could play Chopin’s preludes made a tremendous impression on me at that time. There was also a woman who taught at the Gnessins Academy of Music, a friend of Anna Pavlovna Kantor, her name was Maria Alexandrovna Sharikova. In summer we lived in our summer house, dacha, and I practised with the neighbour, Sergei Alexandrovich Ipatov. An interesting man — he was from an orphanage, at the age of 14 he began to learn to play the piano and at 18 he was already admitted to the conservatoire, to Igumnov’s class. A man of huge talent and a very difficult temper. He didn’t make a big career, but he even composed music — in a kind of traditional style. A Russian prodigy, a self-made man with all the pluses and minuses that come with it.  It was he who said I should go to the Central Music School and not to the Gnessin Musical College. His advice was to go to Timakin but Timakin had left somewhere at that time, I guess Yugoslavia, for a year, and I was admitted to Tatiana Evgenyevna Kestner’s class. She is my true and legitimate long-term teacher, herself a student of Goldenweiser. Incidentally, it was he who founded the Central Music School.

— Which means you are Goldenweiser’s one-generation-later student too...

— Well, yes, when every five years somewhere in the vast expanse of the globe I run into  Anna Pavlovna Kantor, she always says to me: “My dear colleague, aren’t we students of the same teacher!” And that is true. We were both students of Tatiana Evgenyevna Kestner. Funny, isn’t it?

— It is, and how, given a considerable age difference... I think it would be worthwhile reminding our readers that Kantor is the teacher of Evgeny Kissin who, very much as yourself, distances himself from glamour, ostentation and show business. Although some contemporary musicians referring themselves to the classical department, as it were, think that without it one could fall out of the race. How do you manage not to knuckle under to this fickle world, as the popular song goes? It’s so absurd...

— I don’t think anything changes in the world in this respect. Beethoven thought of Rossini in much harsher terms than you of the show biz people, or Schumann of Liszt... ‘A terrible age and terrible hearts’ is what Pushkin wrote of the seventeenth century in the early 30s of the nineteenth century. It’s the way things go — at any age people think that the world has never seen a worse horror. Mass culture generates tons of money and tons of money, respectively, creates a lot of jobs for people around, in other words, it’s a huge industry, but, honestly, I don’t see anything tragic in it. Because I am not sure that the space the classical music occupies in the world diminishes due to that. Maybe in the fifties the Soviet Union could boast a fairly high level of  interest in classical music, however there are quite a few cities in the world today, Amsterdam or Tel-Aviv, say, which are far from lacking that. That is why I don’t feel so strong about it.   

— But still — vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas — you will agree, won’t you that  life is full  of things mundane. Take you, for example, it’s been your long-time dream to have a concert hall built in Rachmaninov’s manor place in the village of Ivanovka, Tambov region, where he wrote all his main compositions of the Russian period...

— There is an interesting story around this country estate. The country estate in Ivanovka, in the south-east of the Tambov region, belonged to Rachmaninov’s aunt who married Satin. Once Rachmaninov came there in summer and met a host of his cousins, one of whom he eventually married — this consanguineous marriage, by the way, required Nicolas the Second’s permit. So he began spending there six months at a time, from April to October. A Russian village, a simple but very nice manor where he wrote 80% of his great music, — Rachmaninov loved that place. When in emigration, he admitted: “I have always longed for and wanted to be in Ivanovka and I am longing for it now”. Of course, he never returned to Russia after 1917. The manor place was gradually falling to decay until nothing but ruins were left of it. It was only owing to school teacher Alexander Ermakov that it was restored and a Rachmaninov museum was opened in it. I try to go there every year, in August, and play a little concert in the open. And — to the best of my ability — I am helping with building a concert hall and something like a hotel, although you understand what a Russian village is like with all its challenges. You’re right though — my main dream is for the village of Ivanovka to host a Rachmaninov festival.

— But there is a Rachmaninov festival in Tambov already which you direct?

— It’s been run for 38 years already, mainly by Viktor Karpovich Merzhanov, a well-known professor. But after he died, the local authorities asked me if they could nominate me as its Artistic Director. I agreed. But by no means can it be said to be is my festival. Ivanovka is a dream which may come true but probably not very soon. The Russian village has its specificities. Add to that difficulties of traveling there, it is 150 km from Tambov to Ivanovka, not near, by far. People living there are cut off from live music and live theatres, while in European villages a lot of wonderful things are happening. I believe they should be happening in Russia as well.

— The Russian village with ‘life of leisure for thoughts untethered’... the muse of Pushkin, Tyutchev, Fet, Pasternak and other poets who, as far as I know, you admire for musicality of their verse?

— Each for a different thing, I’d say. Tyutchev is probably the least musical poet — he is clearly biased towards the depth of thought, sometimes in an aphoristic and terse form. Pasternak is certainly a more musical poet; Fet’s verse sounds unbelievably beautiful, and Pushkin is a separate story altogether. A person who doesn’t understand a word of Russian can just listen to the music of his verse, but for those who understand, the depth of thought is simply unfathomable. That’s how I feel about it but then I’m just an amateur. 

— I heard you are fond of poetry “pies” about composers? Which is your favourite one?

— There’d be at least fifty which I like. They have a lot of music in them, those “pies.” Among couplets, this one beats all: “He married twice, and both times failed. One woman left, the other stayed.” There is also the so-called “powder,” a variety of the “pie”: “The little box sent to Beethoven contained a note — in hand unknown it said: “Accept. You need it more. Van Gogh.” 

— Superb. Folklore, I presume, author unknown?

— Well, folklore it may be, but each “pie” has its author. I have a friend, Sasha Gasparov. He lives in Paris and teaches at the Paris Conservatoire. Every once in a while he comes to Moscow for a day or two to the ‘pie-makers’ gathering. Poetry “pies” is very much a Russian-language phenomenon, therefore lovers of the genre gather in Moscow. 

— Talking of things Russian — I heard (and was awfully intrigued by it) that you have a special liking for “The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish.” Why?

— Nearly everything written by Pushkin deserves to be read into, looked into and thought into very carefully. But “The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish” is really something special. I used to think that it is a very Russian story but I was disillusioned. Other countries have similar tales, at least in the north of Holland, which is closely linked to the sea. There it is called “The Story of an Old Woman.” The story line is practically the same. The remarkable thing about Pushkin’s tale is that there are places which are quite harsh, like, for example, when the old man tries to rebuke the old woman saying she must be crazy to think she could be a tsaritsa: “You don’t know how to walk like a tsaritsa, You don’t know how to talk like a tsaritsa, You'll be the laughing stock of your tsardom”, — also, when the old man was shoved towards the door and “the guards ran up with their axes and all but hacked him to pieces.” Then a remark: “Everyone laughed at the old man.” Not at her, but at him. But who needs my comments, anyway? One just needs to read and re-read these things, ten times, thirty times…

— Tell me which is closer to your heart — klavierabends or performing with the orchestra?

— I play in different genres — klavierabends, chamber music but most of all I play with the orchestra. I simply love music very much, and there’s wonderful music in all of those, although the difference is quite big, no doubt about it. Klavierabend is when you are alone on the stage for two hours, and there is no one there to help you, or be in the way, or put your finger at, or feel the helping hand of. This is certainly more serious and more nerve-racking. But playing a concerto is also an indicator. If a pianist is playing with an orchestra, you hear to what extent he knows the music, knows the score, knows what it means to play other instruments, knows, at any point in time, who is playing the theme and who is accompanying... By the way, there is a general trend observed in the world — the number of piano concertos played is slightly increasing, and the number of klavierabends is slightly decreasing. It’s difficult to account for and when I was younger I was shocked by it. It seemed to me that there are simple economic considerations — one thing is to pay a fee to one performer and a totally different thing is to pay for an 80-men strong orchestra, the conductor, music stands, sheet music, pensions after all... But it turned out that it is much simpler to pay for all these hundred people than for one pianist on the stage. Amazing, but that’s a true fact.

— How come?

— The government, municipalities, and private sponsors prefer to give money to something associated with a large group of people, a team. By all means, there needs to be a leader in that team, a conductor, for instance, or a chef de pupitre, in other words, there needs to be a pyramid structure. Ordinary people, too, tend to go to where there is a bigger crowd of people on the stage. The most vulnerable genre is the music I love madly, the string quartet.  For me, the key thing out of what Beethoven created in music is his string quartets. This is the most difficult genre for the general public. Despite the fact that it is in this genre that Beethoven’s contribution of new things in music is to be found, piano sonatas and symphonies come second. Therefore, a piano concerto is more practical, unless one decides to give it up altogether as Grigory Sokolov did. Then, if a person kind of swims with the current — that has been my case so far — 50 percent or slightly more are piano concertos. Around 35 percent are solo performances, and around 10-15 percent is chamber music.

— It must be far from easy to every time to have to get the feel of the orchestra, sometimes an unknown orchestra, for that matter?

— The overall level of orchestral music-making in the world has improved enormously over the past fifty years. No wonder, there are 20 phenomenal orchestras in America, England boasts a very high level, too. This is common knowledge. But I am sometimes amazed at what I see in small towns when I get there. In Valladolid of Spain, for instance, they have a wonderful orchestra. Or take Odense in Denmark, where I am now, the orchestra is directed by Alexander Vedernikov and they play astoundingly. It used to be very different. Imagine the times of Liszt and you will understand why he made such a crazy number of adaptations — orchestras able to play Beethoven’s symphony were simply not there. There was one in Vienna, one in Leipzig — you can count them on the fingers of one hand... Now it’s a few hundred wonderful orchestras, and that is an objective judgment. I have played with very many conductors, over two hundred, and I can state with certainty that total misalignment with the conductor is a rare thing. Musicians learn to play in chamber ensembles, sing in choirs willing to eventually come together in the music they make. Yes, they may be moving towards it from different directions but somehow they must converge. Of course, there are favourite conductors, there are those who it is very easy, comfortable, and enjoyable with and who you don’t have to discuss anything with.  From among the greatest conductors, my biggest impressions were certainly from Temirkanov; from among those who I have played a lot in recent years with — Charles Dutoit, a very easy man (it was not by chance that he was the favourite conductor and husband of Martha Argerich). Making music on two pianos, however, is a more vulnerable and complex art. 

— Here we might as well recall your duos with Vadim Rudenko and the Tchaikovsky competition where you out-performed him...

— We were very good pals before the competition and became good friends after. This speaks rather more to his credit than to mine. With pianists it’s a normal situation, we have much less competition, if at all, than conductors or female vocalists, conductors — in the first place. Because the profession is so evanescent, so much opinion-based, it is so easy to tip the balance... Consequently, if musicians in the orchestra hate you, they won’t play like there’ll be no tomorrow. Conductors, I’m afraid, seldom speak of each other with respect (laughs). As for Rudenko and me, we continue to be friends and have complete mutual understanding in music, although we don’t play all that often, once or twice a year, — the repertoire for two pianos can by no means compare to that for one.

— Who else do you play duo with?

— I practically don’t, but I did. The first person to name is Tatiana Petrovna Nikolaeva, my main teacher, apart from Kestner and Dorensky. We played four hands on two pianos on a number of occasions with Nikolaeva. Later, I remember playing with her remarkable student Mikhail Petukhov — mainly in her memory. I played with Kavakos, twice with Boris Berezovsky in Verbier... By the way, something exotic happened in Verbier this time — we played — and it only became known on the eve of the event — with Yuja Wang. It was the concert dedicated to Kavakos’ 50th anniversary. Due to family losses and misfortunes, he couldn’t come and I thought it would all be cancelled but Verbier decided to have Kavakos’ best friends’ concert, so I played with Yuja Wang, Rachmaninov’s Second Suite.

— So, the glass bead game is not the only game you play, you play chess into the bargain... is there anything in common between chess logic and music logic?

— Well, in the Soviet Union it was pandemic — all men, from intellectuals to street cleaners, played chess, I did, too. My dad taught me. It is still an awfully popular game among musicians. Prokofiev and Oistrakh played as chess masters. I can still play some blitz games and I sometimes watch chess news, I have a lot of friends among outstanding chess players.  It seems to me the ratio of logic and phantasy is inversely proportional there. I mean, in chess there’s 90 percent of logic and 10 percent of the irrational component, phantasy, and in music it is the other way round. At least, it has 75 percent of the inexplicable, illogical, imperceptible, and 25 percent of what can be analysed. In music it is impossible to say what is right and what is wrong, where you won and where you lost, where there is truth and where there is fallacy, the false path.  While in chess it exists — right and wrong. In my view, music has a wider coverage than chess. Chess is a game and music can be compared to life. For instance, there are a lot of things in life we cannot comprehend, like the appearance of the living from the dead. Theoretically, a kettle can boil in the snow but practically it doesn’t.  Life shouldn’t have appeared from dead nature but it did. Same with music. Therefore it has more inexplicable things in it. Maybe, a musician playing chess wants to get away, albeit for an instant, from what is imperceptible and what defies evaluation to what is very complex but logical, where an answer is always to be found. 

Nikolai Lugansky is playing Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium, Tel Aviv, on May 10.

Photo: Caroline Doutre and NaЛve

This interview originally appeared in the magazine “Maltese Herald”


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