1990 I received a telephone call:
- "Hello! This is the composer
Sergei Berinsky speaking. We don't know each other. I have just returned from Astrakhan, where one of the composers there has asked me to deliver his work
As is well known,
as a result of my guest appearances in concert tours composers often give me
their works either by hand or by post – hoping for a performance. I have never
refused to consider them: so why this time? As in the words of the contemporary
Russian poet Mayakovsky: "... for the sake of a
single work a thousand tons of verbal ore may have to be smelted". Berinsky was himself quite well known at the time, so I
asked him directly:
perhaps you could write something for me yourself?"
replied my caller, with surprise in his
characteristically deep voice, "an
interesting question! But why not? I have not yet written, for the bayan.
It could be very interesting."
So with one
chance telephone conversation began our acquaintance and creative friendship,
which lasted eight years until his premature death. He wrote the first work very
quickly in 1990, and it was originally called "Partita" for bayan in
four movements: 1 – Cadence, 2 – Thus Spake Zarathustra, 3 – Chorale, 4
– Lullaby. Shortly afterwards Sergei decided to call the whole Partita
"Thus Spake Zarathustra ", and
the second movement became a
"Dance". Naturally it was necessary to make some corrections to the
final version of the text, but I was amazed at Berinsky's intimate knowledge of
the bayan: the composition had the right feeling for the instrument, and
contained the authentic sound of the bayan. From his first work onwards
Berinksy's sound world was very attractive to me. His thoughts were always
boldly expressed and with clear intonation. Musical ideas are developed with a
broad brush and with a raw nerve. If there
is passion – then it is expressed without reservation, if sorrow and suffering
– then the whole universe should be filled with it. His tone colours compel the performer on stage to
"die not in pretence, but for real". The artistic aspirations of his works were very important to him — as shown even in their titles: "Bells of Warsaw", "Psalms of David", "... And
the Sky is Darkened" (Apocalypse,
Chapter 6), "... Thus Spake Zarathustra" ... He was very familiar with
biblical texts, and in his external appearance reminded me of biblical
I remember how splendidly he ran
his "Sergei Berinsky Club". His monologues bubbled with new ideas,
original thoughts and brief spontaneous humour. Club meetings took place monthly
in "Musicalnaya Gostinaya Doma Shuvalovoy" (a salon adjoining the
Gnessin Institute. Ed.) and were attended by the musical elite of Moscow.
In the course of his activities as
editor of the newspaper "Musicalnaya Academiya" Sergei Berinsky had
discussions with well known composers and interviewed them. He would invite
speakers to his seminars to open with an
informal dialogue, and his questions were
just as interesting as their answers: sometimes his questions degenerated
into his own little explanatory monologues in which his intellect was scarcely
In 1991 on his own initiative
Berinsky wrote "Il Dolce Dolore" ("Sweet Pain") for my Duo with the famous cellist, Vladimir
1991 I was invited on to the jury of the International Hugo Herrmann Competition
in the German town of Witten. During the competition its organiser, Wolfgang
Eschenbacher, President of the Deutscher Akkordeonlehrerverband (German
Accordion Teachers' Association), came to me with the request to commission two
duets — bayan in combination with an orchestral instrument — from two Russian composers for the next competition. As the composers
were to receive a fee for
this, I gladly passed this commission to
Cyril Volkov (he
wrote "Homage to Thomas von Celano"(1)
for cello and bayan) and Sergei Berinsky. Sergei wrote "Sempre
maiore!" for oboe and bayan in the style of the Indian Raga.
Both works were warmly received by the organisers. I am always pleased to be
able to help my composer friends. The composition of a work is, after all, a
serious creative business, which must be remunerated accordingly. Unfortunately,
it is human nature to take rather than to give: write something, and perhaps I
will play it. I consider the system of commissioning compositions as very
sensible, although practically all works written for me were written out of
friend-ship or thanks or personal sympathy.
afterwards there emerged a really unusual work, "Three Pieces in a Bad Style" (1992) for bayan and
microphone, in which the microphone was used to strengthen the composer's
intention in the direction of an extremely naturalistic sonority. I should
mention that, besides the biblical motives,
the strikingly positive masculine opening stood out as the main feature
of this work.
In the eight years of our
association Berinsky wrote eight major works for bayan – solo and ensembles,
sometimes on his own initiative, but sometimes also on mine. I remember I once
rang him, in order to make the following suggestion:
"Sergei, what do you think of
the idea of writing "Apocalypse" for bayan and
"Oh! What an
idea! And why 'Apocalypse’ exactly?"
"Well, only because my surname
is contained in this word (apocalypse, apocalips ... But generally
though, it is a powerful theme."
the evening we had another telephone conversation:
today I was nearly run over by a tram."
"How did this happen?"
"The whole day long I was deep in thought about your idea concerning
the 'Apocalypse'. I was so enthusiastic about it that when crossing the street I
did not even notice the passing tram. "
his Symphony No 3 "... And the Sky is
Darkened" (Apocalypse, Chapter 6) for bayan
and symphony orchestra in 1993. The premiere took place in Yekaterinburg with
the Urals Symphony Orchestra under the baton of its Principal Conductor, Dmitry
Liss; later we per-formed the symphony with the same orchestra in Moscow,
in the Great Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory. Subsequently there
were performances of the symphony in Kemerovo (conductor: Yuri Nikolayevsky) and
in Izmir, Turkey (conductor: Alpaslan Ertungealp). While still working on the symphony, I warned Sergei against using the bayan with the
full volume of the orchestra. It appears that the bayan is a loud instrument,
but in fact, its sound is drowned when the orchestra is playing at full volume.
I have often discussed this with Vladimir Tonkha: "Play more softly!" he was always asking me. After the concert we had feed-back from the
audience: the bayan was too quiet. It is a fact that the bayan sounds loud when
one is close to it, yet often the hall is not
filled with its sound. We have in the bayan about
a thousand "free reeds", but the resonance chambers are very small.
In contrast, on the cello and violin, for example, there are only four strings,
but there is more resonance space where the note is produced. Sergei
understood very well how to overcome these difficulties; his instrumentation
did not drown the living sound of the bayan, and in the climax the microphone
was switched on to great effect.
for soprano, bayan and piano - "Miserere"
– Lord, Have Mercy on Us (1993) – was an
unexpected gift, dedicated to my son, Svyatoslav Lips, and me. In my
opinion, the composer succeeded in combining the tone colours of the bayan and
the piano, which are difficult to combine. Neither of the two instrumental
parts has the character of an accompaniment; together with the voice the three
parts run parallel, which produces a very powerful biblical image, to which each
part makes a striking contribution. We performed the premiere of this work and
the CD recording with the magnificent singer, Tatyana Kuindshy.
In 1996 an international
competition was organised for bayan and accordion
players in the Spanish town of Arrasate on
the initiative of the Accordion Association
of the Basque province of Guipuzcoa. The organisers put to me the idea that a
Russian composer should write a new work as a compulsory piece for one of
the next competitions.
I thought immediately of Berinsky,
especially as his "Partita"
had already achieved great popularity in
Spain. Sergei responded very quickly to this suggestion, and soon the piece
entitled "Cinema" was finished (1997). It was dedicated to the Italian
composer, Nino Rota, who was well known because of his lovely tunes and
work in co-operation with the great film director, Frederico Fellini. The
piece contains much cinematic imagery and by using the performer's own voice, is
a little eccentric.
Another major work – "Seascape" for violin and bayan – was composed by Berinsky after visiting the
Odessa Music Festival:
"Friedrich, as you know, in
Odessa there is a wonderful duet, Lena and Vanya Yergiev. I like them very much.
I promised to write something for them."
Because of Sergei's fertile
creative imagination the bayan part of the manuscript of this piece needed
some changes, which we did together. Holding the instrument in my hands, I proposed a number of
variations to him, and he chose the best of
them. The work became very picturesque: a refined sound
painting, as though he were painting a picture of
a splendid seascape: in the bayan part the swaying and
gigantic power of the endless water level, whilst the violin brings elements of life into scene, for
example, the screaming of the seagulls. There were two premieres: in Italy at the
International Music Festival in the town of Portogruaro, where I played "Seascape'
with Sergei's daughter, the excellent violinist, Julia Berinskaya, and in Odessa where Lena and Vanya
Yergiev played it.
In 1996 Berinsky wrote the piece "Light Waves" for two
bayans. This was my idea:
"Sergei, I would like a piece where I begin, sitting on the
stage, then suddenly the full sound of a second instrument must break in over
the audience. My partner must take his/her seat inconspicuously opposite me at
the far end of the hall.
Everything must be unexpected, then it is bound to have
always, Sergei coped brilliantly with this commission in a very short time. I played the
premiere in the concert hall of the Groningen Conservatory (Netherlands), together with the well known
Dutch accordion player, Mini Dekkers (this duet is dedicated to both of
us). The Russian premiere took place at my Jubilee concert in December 1998 in
the concert hall of the Russian Gnessin Music Academy with my pupil, Alexander
Sevastyan, who has won prizes at many international competitions.
In early 1997 Serge conveyed to me
by telephone his opinion on my plan with regard
to arranging a composer concert for him:
"You know, Friedrich, I have written so much music, but there
has never yet been an evening concert with my works. Can you take part in one
and play a few of my pieces?"
Of course, I agreed. However, as
autumn approached, many musicians who had already agreed to take part in the
concert were now cancelling for various reasons. In fact, it is not easy to
organise a concert with several colleagues: every performer has his/her own
diary with many other commitments. Sergei was naturally downcast and rang me:
"What shall I do? All my hope
now rests on you!"
One of his remarks on the
telephone struck me particularly:
I have a very good relationship with you, because there are always some positive impulses coming
thought about this for a while and then suggested to
him that my recital, planned for
November 1997 in the concert hall of
the Russian Gnessin Music Academy as a
subscription concert “The Gnessin Academy
Presents'', be organised as a bayan evening, in which his works
for solo bayan alternate with chamber
a composer concert with works by Sergei Berinsky would emerge.
This was a way out of an awkward situation,
and Sergei agreed, beaming with joy. This idea of course was not
without a certain amount of risk. Pianists
sometimes play composer programmes with works
by Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven ... but this concert would be that of a bayan
player, consisting of music by
a contemporary composer, who was not yet well known and who in general was being
played for the first time. As is well known, many years ago I had an opportunity
to play in a similar concert with works by a single composer. That was the
concert in memory of Vladislav Solotaryov
in 1976. In this situation one can only
rely on the reputation of the
performer and the composer to obtain an audience.
The programme for this concert
was: Part 1: Partita "Thus Spoke
Zarathustra" (solo), "Il
Dolce Dolore" ("Sweet Pain") (cello and bayan), "Miserere" (soprano, bayan and piano); Part 2: "Three Pieces in a Bad Style" (solo), "Seascape" (violin and bayan) and "Cinema" (solo). The concert attracted more people than the hall
could accommodate. Sergei, whose composer evenings were not expected to be
sold out, was probably excited to find no seat available for himself and stood
somewhere in the gallery. After the concert he joked:
"Friedrich, there was a bigger
audience at your concert than at all my previous concerts put together!"
At that time Berinsky was
terminally ill, and I was glad that the success of this concert brightened up
his existence a little.
To my great regret, our creative
partnership, which gave me (and I hope, him as well) so many exciting moments (I
should mention dialogues, thoughts and the emergence of new ideas), and produced positive results, came to an
end as unexpectedly as it had begun.
Sergei did not teach composition
at a college; in spite of this, he was a born teacher. Indeed, I would say
that he was a teacher who stood at the peak of a whole school of thought. This
was demonstrated by the interest of many young composers from different towns in
his master classes in the Artists' House in Ivanovo (100 km S.E. of Moscow. Ed.) He
had the broad thought of a professor and provided stimulus to new thinking and
thought of himself as a leader.
As far as the bayan is concerned,
he made an important contribution to our repertoire, both in quantity and in
the emergence of a new cycle of visual images and a fresh musical language. On
his unconventional view of the bayan Berinsky expressed himself in a very
interesting way, talking of the bayan in an interview for the newspaper "Narodnik"
(1997, No 3), where he
"the Bayan is an instrument ´from
another planet'. It has a distant, even celestial tone colour, but a living
breath; like a being from another world. One can say about the bayan that it is like `Quasimodo' with a tragic soul, completely enharmonic, it has is human breath,
but an inhuman voice, and this must be seen as its peculiarity as well as its
wrote tonal music with a modern sensitivity to intonation and rhythm. In view
of his major contribution to Russian chamber and orchestral music, his music
was included in a concert in one of the Moscow Festivals. It was announced in
the press that this concert was dedicated to "the works of outstanding
deceased Russian composers" and three names were given: Dmitri Shostakovich,
Alfred Schnittke and Sergei Berinsky. By his premature death he was
denied broad recognition in Russia and, unfortunately, in the international
domain as well. To achieve this, an artist has to live a long life nowadays,
especially in Russia. However, his works and the quality of his thought will
certainly earn him in the future his due place in musical history. The interest
of well known musicians (conductors, members of ensembles and soloists) will
guarantee this. Finally, I would like to quote an aphorism of Sergei Berinsky's,
an uncompromising thought, which reverberates with the same strength as his
of music are basically an attempt to perpetuate one's life's energy in the
beautiful form of the free flow of life"
Thomas von Celano was a medieval Italian monk and is the
author of the well known theme of dark forces
– "Dies Irae".
Bayan Works by Sergei Berinsky
1990 - "Thus Spake Zarathustra" – Partita for bayan in four parts. Total playing time:
14:51. Premiere: 1991, Brussels (Botany Concert Hall, Friedrich
Recording on `"Thus Spake Zarathustra", LIPS CD 006, Austria, and
"Thus Spake Zarathustra" – 000 "East Wind", Moscow,
Friedrich Lips, bayan. Published by the "Muzyka" publishing house, in
Volume 3 "The 20th Century Bayan Players of the 21st Century", Moscow,
2000 and by "Karthause-Schmülling", Germany
"II Dolce Dolore" – for cello and bay an. Total playing time: 10:27. Premiere: 1991 in the concert hall of the
Russian Gnessin Music Academy (Vladimir Tonkha, cello,
Friedrich Lips, bayan). Recording on "River
of Love", LIPS CD 011, Austria, and
"River of Love" – 000 "East Wind", Moscow. Performers:
Vladimir Tonkha, Friedrich Lips. Manuscript.
1992 - "Sempre maiore! (quasi Raga)" – for oboe and bayan. Total playing time: 7:00. Premiere:
2.4.1997 in Vienna (Alfred Hartel, oboe; Heinrich Biegenzahn, accordion).
by Augemus-Musikverlag (music publishers), Bochum, Germany, 2001.
1992 - "Three Pieces in ‘Bad’ Style" – for bayan.
Total playing time: 14:50. Premiere: 1993 in Moscow (concert hall of the Glinka
State Music Museum). Recording on "Snowfall by Night" LIPS CD 008,
Austria, and "Snowfall by Night" – 000 "East Wind", Moscow,
Soloist: Friedrich Lips. Manuscript,
1993 - Symphony No 3 for Bayan and Large Symphony Orchestra "... And the Sky is Darkened" (Apocalypse, Chapter 6)
playing time: 21:30, Premiere: 1996 in the concert hall of the Yekaterinburg
Philharmonia and in the Great
Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow (Ural Symphony Orchestra,
conductor:. Dmitri Liss, soloist:
Friedrich Lips). Recording on "Apocalypse", LIPS CD 009,
Austria. Performers: Ural Symphony -Orchestra, conductor: Dmitri Liss, soloist: Friedrich Lips. Published by the
"Composer Publishing House, Moscow,
1993 - "Miserere" for soprano, bayan and piano. Total playing time:
8:37. Premiere: 10%4 in the concert hall of the Russian Gnessin Music Academy (Tatyana
Kuindshy, soprano, Friedrich Lips, bayan, Svyatoslav Lips. piano). Recording on
"Miserere", LIPS CD 014. Austria, and "Miserere" – 000
"East Wind", Moscow. Manuscript.
1996 - "Seascape" – poem for violin and bayan. Total playing time: 14:00. Premiere in
Portogruaro, Italy (Julia Berinskaya, violin: Friedrich Lips, bayan). Recording
on "River of Love", LIPS CD 01 1, Austria, and "River of
Love" – 000 "East Wind", Moscow.
Published by the "Muzyka publishing
house, in Volume 7 “The 20th Century to Bayan Players of the 21st Century". Moscow 2004.
1996 - "Light Waves" – for two bayans. Total playing time: 7:00. Premiere: 1997 in
the concert hall of the Groningen Conservatory, The Netherlands. (Performers:
Mini Dekkers and Friedrich Lips). Manuscript.
1997 - "Cinema" – for bayan. Total playing time: 8:06. Premiere: 1997 in the concert hall of
the Russian Gnessin Music Academy (soloist: Friedrich Lips). Recording on
"Cinema", LIPS CD 012, Austria, and "Cinema" – 000
"East Wind", Moscow. Published by the "Muzyka”
publishing house, in Volume 6 "The 20th
to Bayan Players of the 21st
Century", Moscow, 2003.