To my dear friend, Vladislav Solotaryov on his 60th birthday
Two Posters for One Concert
(It seems like yesterday … – 2)
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.
“Ispaniada” 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 wayrespond 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’ work.
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 dance…”
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.
The 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.
Other Unfinished 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, Solotaryov.
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 years 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 Music
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 his works.”
“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 situation stand.
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.
Rodion 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 composer.
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 times.
“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 his recollections.
“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 ideological cover-up.
“Do you understand me: some scoundrel has simply rung up the Central Committee out of self -importance.”
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.”
The 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 protect themselves.
* In certain important moments in life I have a pretty good memory, so that I can quote the dialogue practically word for 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”.