To my dear friend, Vladislav
Solotaryov on his 60th birthday
Two Posters for One Concert
(It seems like yesterday ...
From my fourth year of study
(1970) I played a new programme in Moscow almost every year, initially mainly
transcriptions. Soon however, not without the influence of Solotaryov, there
was a balance between original music and transcriptions. As a rule Bayan
players made up their programmes following a pattern: they began with the
classics (mostly with polyphonic works by Bach) and ending with an arrangement
of folk songs. In 1973 I broke once and for all with this stereotypical
pattern. The concert programme consisted of French music (Franck, Couperin,
Rameau, Daquin, Messiaen) and new original music (Shurbin, Fantasia and Fugue
and also Toccata and Solotaryov's Sonata No 3). Naturally I was to begin the
concert as planned with the Choral Fantasia No 3 by César Franck. But there was
a problem with the Sonata. I did not want to finish the concert with this,
because there should be silence at the end, which would be disturbed by
"encores". The audience and the soloist must pause and reflect. In
short, encores are out of place here. Then Polina Waldman (a friend of mine - a
musicologist and a clever chap; after finishing his studies, he settled down in
the town of Klein, where he has been Scientific Director of the Tschaikovsky
Museum ever since) had a brainwave: "Why not swap the two parts?" But
of course! Why didn't I think of it myself?
… Many would probably say:
"So what? What is special about that?" Nowadays such a decision seems
trivial, but in those days it was overturning all conventional values. To young
musicians: the most difficult thing is to get rid of stereotypes. Youth is the
time of daring, to break with traditional principles. Let us remember the
revolutionary thinking of A. Poletayev's article in the late 1960's on the
"principles of five-finger playing on the Bayan". This was a paper by
an aspiring young musician at the Gorky Conservatorium.
and the Children's Suite No 4
For early 1976 I was planning a concert with one part devoted to
Spanish music. I asked Solotaryov
to write a piece with a Spanish flavour for this programme. He was interested in
the idea and soon presented his thoughts on it.
“I shall transcribe
well-known pieces like Cordoba and Asturias by I. Albeniz and compose a
Fantasia, based on these."
"Please, you don't have
to do that," I replied. “I have already transcribed these pieces and taken
them into the programme. Please write an original work something like the
“Spanish Rhapsody” by F. Liszt."
Time went by, but Vladik's
work did not progress. The answer came to my request and reminder: "The
idea is not developing. Be patient." Not long after, I received a letter
from him from the town of Smela (Cherkassk region), where he often stayed with
his parents in later years. Not a word about the Spanish piece. He wrote that
he had no inspiration and could not write anything. I could bear it no longer
and wrote him a letter, putting pressure on him: "One has to force oneself
to sit on a chair, and the inspiration will come. One must just sit down."
But my friend would in no way
respond to pressure. In reply
he wrote a letter, saying not without humour: "Inspiration is wonderful.
But to sit on eggs without a goal - that is not the best source of inspiration.
I cannot work without a goal." But in the meantime the goal was rather
distant, because his true lord and servant was resting after so many years'
After arriving in Moscow, he
informed me that the children's suite No 4 in ten movements was finished:
"Take it, play it. In the meantime, I will work on the 'Ispaniada'."
Of course, I launched
enthusiastically into the suite. From my first acquaintance with his music I
eagerly awaited anything that came from his pen –
I was so much in touch with
all his images, intonations, the whole spiritual and emotional build-up, even
his handwritten annotations with large, beautiful and clear writing. Moreover,
in this respect, I was by no means alone. Many Bayan players from various
cities who knew about our close friendship, often asked me first of all:
"What has Solotaryov been writing?" After first familiarising myself
with the Suite No 4, I said to him with some astonishment:
"Vladik, the Suite has
ten movements. Each movement lasts on average two to three minutes. Does it not
seem peculiar that a children's suite for Bayan lasts about half an hour? Could
it be split into two suites with five movements?"
"You are probably right.
Do what you think right."
After some time Vladik
brought me the long awaited present. "Ispaniada" (Spanish Rhapsody).
"That is not Spanish
music", he began explaining the work. "It is Spain through the eyes
of a Russian. The sound of surf, guitar cadenzas, fanfares calling one to a
long sea voyage ('Vasco da Gama or Columbus', he said), fiery Spanish
The programme of Spanish
music, planned for 1976, was not performed until 1977. But in the spring of
1976 I prepared a concert dedicated to one composer, Solotaryov, because of the
tragic event of his death on 13 May 1975 and in memory of my friend. I cannot
remember any other Bayan player giving a concert of this kind. Naturally it is
much simpler for pianists: a piano recital with works by Chopin, Liszt or
Beethoven can be heard quite often.
Monastery of Ferapont and Six Children's Suites
The programme for the first
half of the concert consisted of "Five Compositions" (first
performance) and Sonata No 3. For the second half I planned the "Chamber
Suite" in six movements, the "Children's Suite No 4" (first
performance). I wanted to play as an encore the piece "The Monastery of
Ferapont: Meditation on the Frescos of Dionisy". The fate of this piece is
very interesting. After Solotaryov's death his widow, Irina, very kindly gave
me nearly ail his manuscripts, drafts, sketches for future works, literary
works. Over a few days I studied what was written on the sheets. Immense pain,
melancholy, even despair, gripped me: my God, who have we lost! This was a man
from another star or another planet; he was not only talented, but simply
brilliant, but was unable to completely fulfil his genius.
… I read on the sheets
"Miniatures for Bayan and Piano". Later I included a "Choral
Prelude", a "Folk Dance" and a piece "A la Mussorgsky"
in one of the collection albums.*
A series of miniatures,
unfortunately received only handwritten, attracted my attention. I resolved to
put together Children's Suite No 4 afresh, add new pieces and make three new
suites out of the 15 pieces I had obtained. In order that it worked as an
entity and was more or less complete, I compiled it - relatively of course - by
theme: No 4 - magical, No 5 - like a fairy tale, No 6 - pastoral. Now we have
six Children's Suites by Solotaryov. I think that Vladik himself would have
allowed me to do that, especially as he had given his consent to a new
compiIation of his gigantic fourth Suite.
… I continued to read his
handwritten sheets. Then I then looked at the piano piece, "The Monastery
of Ferapont: Meditation on the Frescos of Dionisy". I began to read and …
tears ran down my cheeks: it was an unbelievably beautiful piece! What power,
what might, what immense Russian spirit flows from this wonderful melody!
It is not a big work, but
very well constructed. The upward movement in the first half of the piece is
powerful, constant and slow, the downward movement in the second half (there
are associations with the melodies of the third Sonata) likewise slow, but sad.
The work is surrounded by big seventh chords, his favourite chord, like ringing
bells. The music died away ... eyes filled with tears ... The resolution came
during the performance: pianists have an extensive literature, they will hardly
come up against this piece, but when I did the final editing, I claimed it for
the Bayan and published it in the album as an original work for the Bayan.
Solotaryov once told me that
he was so enthusiastic about the frescos of the old Russian icon painter,
Dionisy, that he therefore made a journey to the town of Kirilov (Vologda
region), to visit the well-known frescos in the Monastery at Ferapont. But he
did not utter a word about this work.
I continued examining the
manuscripts. Here was the first part of Partita No 2, the exposition of a
fourth Sonata, the beginning of a third and fourth Symphony for Bayan and
symphony orchestra. There were notebooks with sketches for the long planned
cycle of six lyrical Russian operas: Andrei Rublyov, Sergei Radonezhsky, Feofan
Greck, Nil Sorsky, Avakum. If this project had succeeded and the oratorio,
commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, "Memorial to the
Revolution", performed - I am
convinced that we would be witnessing the full recognition of the composer,
Among the manuscripts there
was a poem, "Martin Iden", for contralto and chamber orchestra. The
hero, Jack London, was one of Solotaryov's favourite figures. Was not the
hero's violent death a fatal event for Vladislav, on which after barely 33
he built his career?
* "Gotowo-wybornij bayan w muzykal'nom učilišče
(The Converter-Bayan in the
Music School), Volume 10,
publisher: F Lips - Moscow, 1982
Officialdom and Solotaryov's
The concert was scheduled for
March in the concert hall of the Gnessin Institute. A few days beforehand the
poster appeared. At my request Mosconcert produced the poster not as a
soloist's recital (first with the artist's name in large letters and then the
programme), but as a composer portrait: the composer's name in large letters,
then the programme, and the soloist's name last. Then suddenly ... literally
the day before the concert, J. Akimov, the then leader of the teaching staff
for folk instruments, at the same time the most senior Secretary of the Party
organisation in the Institute with a particularly solemn voice and lofty tone,
informed me that as Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party
he had received a telephone call: What mischief are you up to in the concert
hall? The historic 26th Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR is
finishing its work, the whole country is gripped by an unprecedent boom and is
preparing itself to implement historical decisions, and on the final day you
are devoting the whole evening to playing music by a composer, who put an end
to his own life! The devil only knows what this will lead to!
I listened to my superior in
silence. Since the first day of my work in the Bayan Chair I had no particular connection with him,
because my authority as a teacher was quickly recognised, and many young people
in the class urged me on.
He was a rather mediocre
musician. He made his career through his Party work and was in his element
there. Surely the call from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union was for him like a call from the heavenly office of God the Father
for a genuine believer.
In the corridor at the
Institute I met S.M. Kolobkov, who was at the time the Principal (he was
already informed of the incident):
"Complete the programme
with other composers!"
"But it is the idea of
the concert to devote an evening to the memory of Solotaryov by playing only
"Well, play Solotaryov
in the first half and other composers in the second half."
"OK. There will be other
music played in the first half, and then in the second half I shall play both
parts of the Solotaryov programme without a break."
Sergei Kolobkov always
distinguished himself by his caution and well balanced thinking. This decision
too was determined by his attitude and flair:
"You know, we will not
tease the goose or stir things up. Even if you play only one piece by
Solotaryov, the consequences are unforseeable. It would be better to cancel the
concert 'because the artist is sick'."
Anyone who remembers this
time will confirm this. But I was a fighter by nature.
Since leaving my family home
to my training in Magnitogorsk at the age of 15, life was constantly setting me
challenges, which in most cases I had to resolve, standing on my own feet and,
metaphorically speaking, the wind was seldom blowing behind
me, but more often in my
face. I therefore resolved, after the concert was cancelled, not to let this
Let us remember the distant
attitude of our highly acclaimed composers towards Solotaryov, their comments
about the music of the young composer at the All Russian Composition
Competitions, the "retort" by Nikolai Tschaikin in the introduction
to the first edition of the handbook by A Bazurmanov, which was omitted from
the second edition, thanks to numerous letters of request and the activities of
Alexander Nagayev. Let us also remember the judgment of Tschaikin at the All
Russian Composition Competition in Novosibirsk in 1979:
"Solotaryov is neither a
Russian nor a Soviet composer."
"So how has he written
such prodigious works, played throughout the world?" I objected.
"Well, his works are
played abroad, because essentially they have death as a theme there. He is
close to those who live in the capitalist system".
It is hard fighting with
someone so narrow-minded. Furthermore, I felt somewhere at the bottom of my
soul that Nikolai Tchaikin was putting on an act: as a musician he was very
well aware of Solotaryov's talent, but he was a rival, and what a rival! In
short, the news about the prohibition of the concert in memory of Solotaryov
spread so fast and turned into news that Solotaryov was a "forbidden"
composer, especially as this suited many people.
Shedrin and Solotaryov
I decided to act. But how? To
whom should I turn? I considered all the options and arrived, as it eventually
turned out, at the right one. I went to Shedrin. Rodion Konstantinovich at that
time held the position of First Secretary in the Russian Composers' Union.
Vladik told me of their close relationship, showed me his correspondence with
him, greatly respected his human qualities and naturally valued him as a
I called in at Shedrin's
office in Nyeshdanova Street in the Composers' Union without telephoning in
advance. He came forward from behind his desk and shook hands with me. He was a
still youngish man with a freckled face and lots of little wrinkles. He gave me
a broad smile, which Shedrin often gave his partners in conversation.
"Hello! I know your
face. Have you been on television?" began Shedrin energetically.
"That is quite possible. I am Friedrich Lips, the Bayan player."
I must say that I often
played on national television in those years, and at the end of 1975 there was
a 45-minute programme, "Friedrich Lips plays", directed by E. Belyayeva, shown several
"That means that I have
heard you on the television. Sit down and tell me your problems." I
briefly described the situation and asked for help.
"Well, I don't think
anything terrible has happened", said Shedrin, and asked his
secretary to get somebody on
the telephone for him. While she was doing this, which took quite a while, Rodion
Konstantinovich began his story, how he got to know Vladislav Solotaryov.
“... It was some years ago.
One evening I came home, and by the entrance there was a young man with Bayan,
waiting for me and asked me to spare him ten minutes and
listen to his own works. As
always I was rather reserved towards such visitors. As a rule they were wasting
my time. I wanted to send him away, saying that I was too busy, but something
in his behaviour prompted me to ask this unexpected guest in. And what do you
think?" continued Shedrin. "It turned out so interesting talking with
him that my meeting with Slava (this is what Shedrin called Vladislav) lasted
two full hours. First, he played me his music. I was enthusiastic; we began a
conversation, a discussion; afterwards I showed him my latest works. Our
meeting was extended, it was so interesting to be with him!"
Then a telephone call
interrupted Shedrin's story. From the tone of the conversation "with
someone up there" and because the smile disappeared from his face, I understood that all was not
so simple. "This" man could not influence the situation. Shedrin
asked his secretary to ring somebody of higher rank for him, and he continued
“I knew that Slava was not
admitted to the Conservatory the first time. At that time I recommended him to Tichon N.
Chrennikov and they took him on. Afterwards we were in contact several times.
You must understand that he was a man of extraordinary talent, but he was in a
hurry in his career. He wanted everything at once: success, print runs,
circulation of his compositions, fame. But one must first sow the seed in the
earth, water it, wait patiently while it germinates, then weed and tend the
plant, and it will not bear fruit for some time. But Slava immediately pulled
at the plant and to hastened its growth.”
The telephone rang,
interrupting Shedrin's monologue a second time. He explained the facts again,
now to more senior persons, and I felt again that it would not be a simple
matter. In ideologically sensitive questions no-one wanted to take
responsibility. They were all afraid. Finally, Shedrin made a break-through. He
was a normal human being, and it was quite clear to him that there was an
"Do you understand me:
some scoundrel has simply rung up the Central Committee out of self
Shedrin put the receiver
down. His face showed dismay. I felt that he was by nature a winner and did not
give up easily:
"The matter is much more
difficult than I thought. An immediate decision is not possible. Ring me in a
week's time. I will go to the relevant people and sort everything out."
Memorial Concert Takes Place a Month Late
It was an absolute stroke of
luck to turn to Shedrin to solve my problem. A few days later I received
permission for the concert in memory of Solotaryov.
"Do you know that
Shedrin himself helped you!" shouted the editors of the Mosconcert
joyfully. "Yes, I know ...". Silently and sadly, I looked at them in
the eye - but why were they so ready to risk cancelling the concert?
The concert took place a
month later. On the day before, I rang Shedrin at home. I was actually convinced that he
would not come because of his work load. But I felt obliged to invite him and
simply to thank him. His wife, Maya Mikhailovna, answered the telephone.
Although I did not know her personally, her majestic voice was unmistakable. I
introduced myself briefly and asked for Rodion Konstantinovich.
"Friedrich, you are a
good fellow to come to me straight away!" began Shedrin in his
particularly energetic way of tackling problems directly.
I had no idea it was going to
be so difficult. I had to go to extremes!" *
Later Shedrin told this story
in a interview with the well-known television journalist, Urmas Ott, and 12
years later at the Soviet Music Festival, "Let's Make Music Together"
in Boston (USA), of which the organisers were Sara Coldwell and Rodion Shedrin
as Director and Chief Conductor of the Boston Opera. I had the privilege of
being invited to play music by Sofia Gubaidulina. Rodion Konstantinovich
reminded me again of the events of those years:
“It wasn't at all easy. I had
to go to Shauro himself."
(Shauro was Head of the
Cultural Department in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the
USSR. Above him would be Suslov, the ideological chief and
... Brezhnyev. As they say:
above him is only heaven.)
… At home I have two almost
identical posters with a difference in date of one month. On the first in large
letters: SOLOTARYOV; then the programme and beneath it Friedrich Lips. On the
second poster in large letters: FRIEDRICH LIPS; in smaller letters: Solotaryov,
and then the programme. The editors of Mosconcert wanted above ail somehow to
* In certain important
moments in life I have a pretty good memory, so that I can quote the dialogue practically word
The German translation of
this article comes from Dr Herbert Scheibenreif and has been authorised by
Friedrich Lips. The article has been translated into English from German by
Barbara Harrison and appeared in the January 2002 edition of the English
magazine “Accordion World”.