We are losing a generation of talented musicians

 About live performances and not only


Friedrich Lips, Russian People’s  Artist, Professor

Head of the Department of Bayan and Accordion of the Gnessin Music Academy

Letters to our newspaper usually refer to the really important problems of the present cultural situation – from the preservation of the legacy to the integration into the “Bologna process”, from the state of the Russian language to the situation of cultural workers.         Writing people are not opposed to these problems but rather they are convinced that there are no small or unimportant tasks in this area. They only become small and insignificant by the respective attitude of society. However, our readers do not agree in principle.

Probably many of us still remember the famous sentence of Rajkin: “Is that really all … in a single copy?“ When we look at the contents of the All-Russian Musical Forum  (“Culture“ No. 27, July 2007), we would like to exclaim something similar: are all these clever thoughts of authoritative people really only pronounced … for the publication in the newspaper “Culture“?

Throughout his history, man has created material and spiritual values, but regardless of the importance of all material values, only the works of art, music, and literature remained in the grateful memory of humanity. What remains is the image of a people and a state, whereupon its leaders are proud of at later summit meetings, but money for it is always missing. Yes, we educate musicians at the highest level (see the speech of A. Tchaikovsky). There is a reason why our school is very highly regarded in the world. But today the field of musical education is in serious danger in connection with the possible accession of our country to the Bologna process. Almost 100 per cent of musicians are against, but we are trying hard to be drawn into this “event”. Russian School of Music, at the origins of which were such great names as Anton and Nikolai Rubinstein, the Gnesin family, whose three-level system captured talented children from childhood, the envy of our foreign colleagues and the desire to study in Russia or with our teachers abroad. We are invited to actively teach at academies and conservatories, at various summer courses and seminars, so that we can be studied here, but at the same time the education is forced upon us in two stages, where the wide network of children’s music schools can be lost. In my opinion, it is in the ideal case, on the contrary, for us to strive for a complete apprehension of the children in the outer-school age. Children’s sports schools, children’s music schools, children’s youth sports schools, computer classes, as well as working groups of chemists, physicists, actors, etc., can help to identify the abilities of children from their early childhood. And even if they will choose a different profession in the future – no one has been harmed by the use of music or sports. They will be our future concertgoers. We can reasonably take some of the provisions of the Bologna process, but it is not permissible to destroy the musical education system in Russia, where generations of legendary educators and performers have grown up, who are respected and admired by foreign musicians. Let’s join the global processes where we have shortcomings: in the industrial sector, in agriculture, in a favorable investment climate, but where we are strong, others should join us. It should be remembered that our music was one of the most innovative at all times.

Another problem, which is by no means solved two decades after the reorganization of the USSR, is touring musicians. The system, which existed until 1991, and which included Goskonzert, Sojuskonzert, Roskonzert, Moskonzert and the regional philharmonic orchestras, made it possible to capture all the corners of the country with concerts by philharmonic artists. Nowadays this system is completely destroyed, and a new one has not yet taken its place. Of course, in the last years of its existence, this system has mutated into a monster that the Philharmonic could only endure with difficulty. It was nonsense, in fact, when in a month about seven to eight performers of the same instruments flooded a city. Our stage is more quickly oriented to new conditions and has turned into show business with a great number of concerts across the country and on TV, quite quickly, with the help of skilled managers. Of course, outstanding personalities of academic music, who have made their name in the 70 – 80s, are now in great demand. But where are the young laureats no one knows? Artists of the rank of a D. Matsujev will not disappear, of course, but individual stars can hardly be in a  safe situation. We are losing a generation of genuinely gifted musicians, but what is even worse – we have already lost a generation of serious musicians. If there are few concerts already in the regional centers, what can you say about the deep province? Of course, one can be delighted that a working group with the highest leadership of the ministry and the agency for the observation of the creative way of the award winners of the last P.I.Tchaikovsky competition was used to the organization of tours as well as the publication of audio and video productions. But who will examine the creative fate of the winners of the competitions of the pianists in Warsaw and Leeds, the violinists in Genoa and Brussels, the bayanists in Klingenthal and Moscow? I am not convinced by the local actions of this kind: help for some prizes, purchase of wood horns for a particular symphonic orchestra …

Artists on Russian folk instruments – bayan, balalaika, domra – almost are no longer on tour anymore. At the beginning of the genre solo concerts on folk instruments there were outstanding masters such as the bayanist Yury Kasakov and the balalaika player Pavel Netchporenko who later attained the high rank of a people’s artist of the USSR. And the excellent representatives of the following generations of performers also filled the halls. But nowadays the audience, no longer accustomed to concerts with classical music or folk music, thinks that the concert – this is what happens every night on the 1st and 2nd TV channels, and modern music – it’s not A. Schnittke and S.Gubaidulina but “pop music“. Russia is a huge country that has always been rich in talents, and of course, you can find a huge number of venues and organize public. In this regard, D. Dondurej expressed the right idea: “Drag Fradkov to Schnittke!“ When we see the leaders of the state in the symphonic and chamber concerts (they go to pop concerts), a different relationship to serious art will develop. And no high-ranking official could have told: “Many balalaika players got divorced!“ I am convinced that as an intelligent person, he is most embarrassed not to attend any philharmonic concerts. As a matter of fact, it is known that V.Putin studied in the bayan class of his music school. And did not become a bayanist. So what? After all, not everybody needs to be a musician. We also need the ordinary listeners, and somebody also must be president!

By the way, we still have not felt the results of the Department of Management opened in many universities. And concert agencies and impresarios who would understand that with the involvement of public and sponsors, this business also could be profitable, have not yet filled this niche so far. I remember when the impresario invited us to dinner at his home after one of the concerts abroad, together with G.N.Roshdyestvensky, under whose direction I was fortunately able to play. Seeing my admiring gaze at the forest located in the mansion of our host, Gennady asked: “Do you like it? This is our house!“ My astonishment has been scattered about it: “He has built it with our money!“ It is evident that not only pop music, but also philharmonic art can become a profitable business! It is necessary to find an impresario in every city, which has in its agencies a number of artists: pianists, violinists, vocalists, bayanists, balalaika players, cellists, etc. If these artists travel through the country, they would also be engaged by other impresarios. By the way, a skilled management is not just about organizing the performance of Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff concerts for the hundredth time, but also a skilful inclusion of modern music into the programs, which are otherwise reserved mainly for the festival “Moscow Autumn“. And you do not have to convince anyone that the great composers are degenerated. We have remarkable composers, but one must also play and promote their music! Our ears are already stunted, we are ready to hear only well-known works. As M.E. Shvydkoi said in his speech, “It depends on us whether there will be a decay of the Russian people. Today, the problem of simplification has degenerated to intolerability. People have ceased to listen, have ceased to understand a complicated text, have ceased to capture the versatility of the world“. But dear Mikhail Efimovich! It is only up to you and Minister A.S. Sokolov to inform the Duma, the government, the president, and also the meetings of well-known musicians and other personalities in the arts at the discussions and forums, similar to those taking place during the summer in the Moscow Philharmonic Society, can help these tasks to be concretized. And most importantly, please pursue their implementation!

So far, we have not lost our intellectual and creative potential, which has developed not even for decades, but now for centuries. It is necessary to gather the clever minds and authoritative names to rethink the conception of the development of music in Russia.         It would be catastrophic to let things go, especially as the young men, who have come to power, are not always, and in all, competent enough to rise to the dignity to assess a historical profit accumulated over centuries, and to give a constructive view of the future.