Moderator: Herbert Scheibenreif
Moscow / June 2021
Q. Prof. Lips! The 30th CD of your own CD series has just been released. What special meaning does this have for you in your life’s work? Have you also received international awards for your CDs?
A. Of course, the release of the 30th CD is not an everyday occurrence for me. After all, if we consider that an average of around an hour of music can be heard on each CD, the total playing time is more than a day! In the whole series there are many solo works, as well as chamber music, recordings with chamber and symphony orchestras; there are different styles here, such as classical and romantic, modern music, folk, pop, tango by A. Piazzolla … I never tried to play as much as possible, instead I played and recorded what was close to my heart. Over 100 works were recorded first on Radio Moscow and later on international labels on around 50 CDs, which were published in Russia, the USA, Japan, Austria, Germany and Sweden, among others. The CD with the recording of Gubaidulina’s partita “Seven Words” received the “Diapason d’or” (golden tuning fork) award in Paris and was named the best CD of 1991. In 2006 the CD “Russian and Trepak” won third prize in the classical music category of 25,500 nominated solo albums in the Just Plain Folks Music Awards competition.
Q. Have all of these recordings been important for the development of your own typical style? Which recordings are inextricably linked with your name?
A. I can’t say that I’m always happy with my recordings. As the famous musicologist and pianist Grigory Kogan said: “When you listen to your recording of a piece for the first time, you are satisfied, the second time you hear flaws and the third time the recording becomes evidence.“ A no less spectacular statement from our actress Faina Ranevskaya, famous for her bright aphorisms: ”A badly played role in a film lasts forever!”. I can speak of more or less satisfaction with one recording or another, but in general I am not ashamed to present them. Do I have favorite recordings? Every recording is loved the moment it is made … maybe someone would like to hear Daquin‘s Cuckoo or Rachmaninoff’s Humoresque? … And someone else will want Bach’s Chaconne or Organ Prelude and Fugue in A minor … or Solotaryov, Kancheli and Gubaidulina … When I hear music by G. Kancheli, I can’t stop. It just enchants, draws me into the magical atmosphere of the sounds.
Q. In Japan you and your “Piazzolla Studio” were celebrated as a kind of pop star for your interpretations of the Argentine tango. How impressive was this experience for a musician who is otherwise more influenced by classical and contemporary music?
A. In Japan people pay close attention to everything new and progressive, not just in science but also in culture. So when Sofia Gubaidulina began to gain authority and recognition on the international stage in the early 1990s, it was not surprising that an impresario invited us to Tokyo with her works. Only a few years later we got an invitation of the same impresario to tour Japan with the music of Astor Piazzolla. In both cases, of course, CD recordings were part of the project and they were released with great success. I remember that back then our Tango CD with the music of the great Argentine topped the charts of the best-selling CDs.
Q. In your book “It seems like yesterday …” you compare your two activities as an educator and an artist on stage. Where do you classify your sound recordings?
A. Unfortunately, CD recordings are becoming less and less popular. The current generation of listeners is less interested in sound quality, they grab whatever interests them on their smartphone from YouTube and that’s enough for them. In everything we glide through life superficially: we practically don’t read any books, we don’t know our story, deep feelings are alien to us, we don’t look at the beautiful evening sunset, we live in a hurry. There is no time to listen to music on good devices, it is enough to hear the outlines of a piece of music on the smartphone. Such a time, such a generation … but I’m optimistic that there are still grateful listeners around.
Q. How did you choose the repertoire of your individual CDs?
A. If we look at the entire series of Lips CDs, we will find that the first CDs contained solos with a large number of arrangements, then original works begin to prevail, chamber music and works with orchestra take up more and more space. It was probably the natural development of an accordionist, in this case my own development, which was facilitated by the fact that the leading composers of Russia dedicated their works to me and that they saw the future of our instrument not only as a solo instrument, but integrated into the general musical culture.
If you look at all 30 CDs from a bird’s eye view, you will find that the title of a CD usually already indicates the content and the cover is designed accordingly. I don’t like chaotic programs. Incidentally, that has always made the compilation of my concert programs excellent. The CD “Russian and Trepak” is based on Russian composers, “Dieu parmi nous” is based on French works, “Russian bells” is based on Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” and Kholminov’s “Symphony“, Solotaryov’s “Six Children’s Suites” are on a single CD, and so on. I also built the program of the last CD according to this pattern: recently written works by the contemporary Russian composers E. Podgaits, A. Tchaikovsky, M. Bronner and, well, a small encore by the Belgian C. Doucet.
Q. What was the significance of your cooperation with other musicians when recording chamber and orchestral music?
A. I would like to thank all the musicians for their tireless efforts in our joint CD recordings, I thank my sound engineers for their valuable contributions in the search for the perfect sound, and I am very grateful to my long-standing, loyal Austrian friend Herbert Scheibenreif, who, by the way, is not only the producer of this CD series, but also translates my books and articles into German and English. In connection with the publication of the ANNIVERSARY CD, I would like to thank my masters – the designers of my Jupiter and Mythos instruments, on whom I have been making recordings for many years: these are primarily the designers of the Jupiter model Y. Volkovitch and the reeds V. Vasilyev and A. Gavrilin, the boss of the company “Jupiter“ S. Barinov, as well as the Italian company “Pigini“, not only designer of “Mythos“, but also sponsor of the entire CD series.
Q. Are any further records planned?
A. At the moment I cannot say whether this was my last CD or whether there will be more to come: we assume and God disposes. Therefore I would like to answer with the words of my idol Heinrich Neuhaus: I have (not) done everything I could, I leave it to others to do more and do it better!