|A.L.'s parents were of the Baltic descent,
they moved to Siberia in 1914 practically without any means to survive.
A.L.'s mother, Maria Borisovna became (and remained for the rest of their
life together) the support of the entire family, as she managed to complete
obstetricians courses before her marriage. Her skill won her a wide acclaim
among the citizens of Biysk, and later - Novosibirsk, and allowed to ensure
relative well-being of her family. Although Maria Borisovna didn't get much
schooling in her life, she had innate artistic taste, remarkable musical
talents and in spite of being unable to read music, she loved to sing opera
arias. A.L.'s father, Lazar Zakharovich, was a very modest man with little
luck in his entrepreneurial endeavours; later in his life he became a bookkeeper.
The Lokshins' children - Maria (b.1914) and Alexander (b.1920) – both started
to study music at an early age, although with nothing like equal success
at it. At the time when the dispossession of kulaks began, the Lokshins owned
a small house in Biysk, a cow and a horse. Then it all was confiscated, A.L.'s
father was ripped of the voting right because of his previous attempts to
take to the commerce, and his name was entered on the list of the "disfranchised",
which was put on a poster on public display. The future composer walked to
school past the poster. About the same time his sister Maria was expelled
from the Medical School for telling someone an unconsidered joke. Finally,
a fire completely destroyed the Lokshins' house. It was impossible to remain
in Biysk any longer and the family moved to Novosibirsk, where it was easier
for the parents to find a job. In Novosibirsk A.L. was admitted to the 12th
Model School, where the most gifted children studied along with the offspring
of local party officials. There were wonderful teachers at the school; particularly
distinguished among them were two men who used to be higher education lecturers
– they taught mathematics and physics, and awoke A.L.'s strong interest
in exact sciences. The tragic fate of these people left an indelible trace
in the memory of A.L. At a school soiree the mathematics teacher read a
poem by [Alexander] Blok The Twelve (which was banned at that time). The
next morning he didn't come to the class, and the physics teacher started
to teach mathematics. When someone in the class asked, why did not their
previous teacher come any more, the physicist said: "When wood is cut fragments
are scattered around". Two days later he also was arrested.
Along with the school providing general education, A.L. studied at a musical one, in the class of a renowned pianist Alexey Stein, former professor of the Saint-Petersburg Conservatoire, exiled to Siberia after the Revolution. It was he, who laid the foundation of A.L.'s future excellent pianism. (Subsequently, being already a Moscow Conservatoire student, A.L. and Mikhail Meyerovich formed a piano ensemble well-known in the conservatoire circles for its four-hand interpretations of symphonic compositions played straight from the score.)
In 1936, when the Novosibirsk City Public Education Department sent him to the Moscow Conservatoire, A.L. brought with him a reference letter from A.F. Stein to his friend, Heinrich Neuhaus, Director of the Moscow Conservatoire. Straight on from a railway station, with all his possessions in a small wooden suitcase, a provincial sixteen-year-old went to the famous institution, where he got right away to the Director. Having had read Stein's letter, Neuhaus gave A.L. an examination and he was surprised at the range of A.L.'s repertoire, which included so many piano arrangements of the symphonic music. To test his ear, Neuhaus asked A.L. to turn aside, then he started to strike more and more complicated chords, and, having received exact answers, he turned his back to the piano, set down on it, leaning against it with both of his hands. Again A.L. named all the sounds in correct order… A.L. was admitted as a second year student first to the Musical School affiliated to the Conservatoire, and six months later - to the second year course of the Conservatoire proper, to the class of Professor Nikolai Myaskovsky. One couldn't find a better professor for A.L. - Myaskovsky treated his students as colleagues, as equals (but without a shadow of familiarity), he didn't impose his manner of composing on them and benevolently examined their creative work. A.L. often visited his teacher at home, had disputes with him, played modern Western music on the piano, and he used to be disappointed when their views did not meet. This was particularly often the case with the music of Mahler, which A.L. admired. For instance, once in the late 1940's, A.L. played the whole of Mahler's 4th Symphony for Myaskovsky, and asked: "Could it be that you don't like the music?" Myaskovsky's reply was: "I do, but only because you play it this way".
A.L.'s degree work, Les fleurs du mal - three pieces for soprano and symphony orchestra based on the verses by Charles Baudelaire (considered to be an audacious author at that time) was written in 1941 shortly before the War began. Because of this work A.L. was denied the Moscow Conservatoire Diploma and was not allowed to take the state examinations. In order to provide his favourite pupil with some kind of recompense, Nikolai Myaskovsky at his own risk, having no authority to act in this way, gave A.L. a reference note with the Conservatoire seal, describing A.L. in a very positive way. The situation A.L. found himself in was also made somewhat easier by the fact that he already was a member of the Composers Union and therefore he had gained a certain social status. Less than a month later the War began. Having had volunteered along with a majority of the Conservatoire students (it is known that nearly all of them, virtually armless, were killed near Moscow in 1941), just a week later he was exempted from the military service because of gastric ulcer that ran. For some time A.L. served on duty on the roof of Moscow Conservatoire at nights, during air raids, throwing incendiary bombs before they would glow, down to the yard, where they were put out with water. Later, when his health completely cracked, A.L. joint his parents in Novosibirsk, where he found his family in extremely difficult circumstances. His sister was diagnosed with tuberculosis, his father, suffering erysipelas on his leg, was in hospital, where he died in 1943 (with diagnosis of "emaciation in the third degree"). His mother had two jobs and was doing her best to support her people. A.L. also found a job as a member of a "concert brigade" of the Novosibirsk Aircraft Plant, and gave concerts at hospitals. In the meantime, at nights, he wrote a symphonic poem called Wait for Me based on the poem by K. Simonov.
The arrival of the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra in Novosibirsk, with Evgeny Mravinsky conducting the performance of the poem Wait for Me, and Ivan Sollertinsky highly praising it, suddenly changed the situation for the better. It became possible to return to Moscow, which he did with Myaskovsky's intercession (see his letter from 31.12.1943). Shortly afterwards A.L. passed the state examinations, and Wait for Me was credited as his degree work after it was performed in Moscow by an orchestra conducted by N.Anosov. With Myaskovsky's irrevocable support A.L. was left at the Moscow Conservatoire as assistant lecturer at the Sub-faculty of Instrumentation. From 1945 to 1948 A.L. worked in this capacity, teaching instrumentation, musical literature and score reading. But in June of 1948, during the fighting back cosmopolitism campaign (as well as for the popularization of ideologically alien music of Mahler, Berg, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich among students), A.L. was dismissed from the Conservatoire. The news found him leaving the Sklifosofsky Hospital, where he had been operated on for stomach resection.
Following these events, in July of 1948 A.L. got a letter from Myaskovsky, where the distressed professor admitted he was helpless against "non-academic reasons" (i.e. the pressure from the [Communist] party committee secretary of the Conservatoire), which forced the Conservatoire Director, Vissarion Shebalin to dismiss an irreproachable tutor. A.L. made several unsuccessful attempts to find a job. An uncommonly sympathy was then extended to him by Maria Yudina, who tried to fix A.L. up with work at the Gnesin Institute, where she was teaching at that time. The Institute archive preserved her outspoken letters to Elena Gnesina, who, just like Shebalin, was not free in her choice though: it is evident from Yudina's letter of 5.IX.1949 that politics interfered on that occasion as well, and Yudina's entreats were all in vain. Ever since A.L. did not manage to find a stable employment and lived as an independent artist in the confinement of his flat, unwilling to leave it for most of the time. But in his younger years his life of a stay-at-home did not make him an unsociable person: he was always surrounded by friends, former students, musicians seeking his professional advice.
Those particularly close to him were composers M.Meyerovich and A.Sevastyanov, a violinist and a freethinking philosopher S.Druzhkin (who had done [several years] in concentration camps as "a Vatican spy"), pianist M.Yudina, conductors A.Jansons and R.Barshai, musicologists I.Kuschnerova, I.Lavrentyeva, E.Chigaryova, and, in his final years, a musicologist I.Karpinsky and a pianist Elena Kuschnerova. A.L. also maintained active professional contacts and friendship with composers R. Bunin, B. Tischenko, and many others. As years passed though, the circle of his friends gradually narrowed owing to various reasons. In his relations with Shostakovich A.L. always kept a respectful distance. He approached Shostakovich only with the intention to show his recent work to the man, whom he regarded as the highest arbiter. When they met at a dinner, which usually happened at Revol Bunin's house, both were aflame with mutual interest and genuine sympathy. Shostakovich rated A.L.'s music high (see Yudina's letter from 28.02.1961 and Tischenko's letter from 21.01.1987), on many occasions helping to get the music performed and the scores published.
Perhaps owing to his extensive musical and literary knowledge A.L. was capable of staging "transmigration of souls" of a kind, and of emotional transitions in time and space. That's why his audience was able to feel closer and to read the minds of his "co-authors" - Shakespeare, Goethe, Kipling, Camoes, medieval Japanese and ancient Greek poets, not to mention Russian ones. It was not only that A.L. knew and understood poetry well; for him it was an integral part of his creative work. Writing a music A.L. almost always searched for a poet to communicate with, and he kept the most valuable pieces of poetry in a special notebook, which he used to carry with him. Sometimes they were stored in that way for many years, and then they would come up as the textual basis of his symphonies. Thus, the 143rd Sonnet by Camoes waited for its time to come for some 33 years.
Along with poetry, A.L.'s favourite reading was history, especially the Roman. His thorough knowledge of it was based on all the sources ever translated into Russian, which he used to re-read many times. He felt particular affinity to Caesar and Cicero, whose lives he knew down to minute details and lived through as if they were his own. He felt a deep aversion to Brutus as a monster, who lifted his hand against a close person, in the pursuit of a dubious aim. A.L. also constantly re-read Plato's Dialogs (in particular the Apology of Socrates), The Bible (The Book of Job), Hamlet (in the translation by B.Pasternak); he loved to read Tolstoy, Folkner, Hibbons, and Swift, as well as modern authors - Zoschenko and Nabokov, with their skeptical viewpoint of the humankind and its concerns.
Apart from this, A.L. was very sensitive to painting, with Breigel, Bosch, van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci being among his favourite artists… On the whole, A.L.'s appreciation of art was quite universal. However, there were things completely alien to him. Thus, he totally rejected light music, and apparently, he experienced some kind of purely physical pain when he listened to it. Still, there were some exceptions of a sort - for instance, Vertinsky. He did not approve of the so-called bard music, which was very popular in the 1960's and 1970's. However, again there was at least one exception. At the end of the 1970's, A.L. finally got to know the work of Alexander Galich, which he had an exceptionally high regard for. One time he even considered orchestrating some of Galich's songs, but the plans never came to life.
One more detail - A.L.'s attitude to the art of cinema. His attitude can be expressed quite shortly: A.L. did not consider cinema a branch of art at all. He was convinced that interaction of so many people participating in the process of film-making is contrary to the nature of art, and that a film is merely a kind of industrial product. The similarity with a symphony orchestra did not occur to him for some reason. Nevertheless, A.L. loved Chaplin's films very much (and considered some of them to be the greatest work of art). The obvious contradiction he explained in a very simple way: "It is no cinema - it's drama".
A.L. developed his love for theatre and dramatic art in his youth, when having arrived in Moscow in 1936 at the age of 16, he took up residence in the house of his cousin, Khesya Lokshina, a director at the Meyerhold Theatre. She was married to a famous actor Erast Garin, who worked at the same theatre. It's an open fact, that shortly afterwards the Meyerhold Theatre was crushed, but A.L. still got a chance to see Garin playing Khlestakov in the production of The Inspector-General , which caused a sensation. For the rest of his life A.L. admired Garin, and considered his talent equal to that of the great Chaplin. No doubt, Garin had a serious influence on the development of A.L.'s taste in art. It was he, who inculcated in A.L. the love for the writings of Zoschenko.
A.L., no doubt, had a philosophy of his own, which he never arrived to present in exact words. In one of his letters to Irena Lavrentyeva, a musicologist, A.L. wrote: "… I have read 30 volumes of Dickens, 15 volumes of Balzac, 12 of Dostoyevsky and 24 of Tolstoy. So to say, I searched for answers to certain questions, but in vain. I shall have to sort them out all on my own." In his quest for the answers to some of the questions A.L. went as far as to look into the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. But it was evident, that the education he received at school was insufficient to grasp the subject. Perhaps, the only thing he drew from his studies of physics was his admiration for Einstein's eloquence.
However, in spite of the wide range of interests A.L. had, they were mainly focused on music. Using his record player he constantly listened to the music of his favourite composers - Bach, Mahler, Brahms, Schubert. Bach was, of course, the most important among them for A.L. He used to interpret Bach in rather informal a way - listening to some arias from Die Johannes Passion, he would remark on their resemblance with thieves' cant, and he liked to repeat that "…even the greatest masterpieces of art always balance on the edge of vulgarity. It is important not to cross the line".
Gustav Mahler was the second most loved composer (after Bach), and, perhaps, the one most kindred in spirit to A.L.
A sarcastic streak of character and the sharp tongue were always characteristic of A.L. and made quite a few enemies for him. For the same reason relationships with colleagues from the Composers Union were far from being unclouded. Conflicts usually erupted at the Symphonic Music Section, where A.L. used to show his own work, listen to other's compositions, and where some times he would come out with criticism. As Meyerovich recalled, the very first of such appearances caused a shock among the audience. Being just admitted as members of the Composers Union, Meyerovich and A.L. came to a session of the Section, where one of the "official" composers was playing his own composition. During the discussion that followed, the chairman suggested the younger participants of the session had a say. A.L. stood up and uttered: "I've never heard more disgusting a music in my life". For their part the ideologically complaisant composers didn't take long to get even with him. Thus, in the mid-50's, after A.L.'s compositions were performed at the Symphonic Music Section, there was a proposal "to give Lokshin a rap over the knuckles". Later, however, the author of this remark telephoned A.L. apologizing and expressing much admiration for his music.
A.L. wrote a lot for cinema, as well as drama performances, subsequently rewriting the music into suites for the [State] Radio Orchestra. He earned his living in this way. But as for his own work, written under no contract, he managed to get them performed with great difficulty, because poems he chose for vocal parts were "not in keeping with the times" (see the article In the Memory of a Friend by R. Barshai reproduced in this book), he never held any official position in the Composers Union, and he completely lacked the ability of self-promotion. (After his death the fact even caused Meyerovich to remark angrily: "Now he is dead and we are left to do for him what he had been too indolent to do himself".) The censors also never seized to keep wakeful eye on him. Here are just a few episodes:
In 1962, in the twilight of the Kruschevian "thaw", A.L. wrote a comical oratory Tarakanische based on the poem by K. Chukovsky. It was about to be performed by the Radio Orchestra under G. Rozhdestvensky, when it was banned, because somebody acutely saw a hint on Khruschev in the character of the Sparrow who pecked up the Cockroach. That was impermissible! Chukovsky's words are: "Asses sing the praises of him", and the composer adds to it with a heroic, yet comical intonation "Glory, glory!" So, the oratory was banned in 1963. But it was not allowed to the Moscow Autumn Festival neither in 1988, nor in 1989. Moreover, none of A.L.'s symphonic compositions for big orchestra was ever accepted by the Moscow Autumn, and only after the composer's death his 8th Symphony (based on The Songs of Western Slavs by Pushkin) found its way to the festival, still with much difficulty. The troubled ways of the 6th Symphony on the verses by Blok are described in the aforementioned article by Barshai. The 9th Symphony which was performed by R. Barshai in 1975 at the Moscow Conservatoire Grand Hall, and which was a great success, was not heard again until after many years. Once A.L. made an attempt to offer this symphony to the Moscow Autumn Festival, and he brought a record of the 1975 concert to the audition. After A.L.'s music was played, another composer's work was introduced. It must be mentioned, that the 9th Symphony is based on poems by Leonid Martynov: Microbes, A Man Who Was Hit, I Spoke to God That Stifling Night, which at that time were effectively banned. The sequence and its musical interpretation made the effect afforded by the poetry many times stronger. After the public audition was over, the Section Chairman Yu.Levitin congratulated A.L. on a brilliant work, but in the end he added: "The first composition is marked with a great talent, but it shall not be played, since we don't need it. While the second composition has no mark of talent on it, but we need it, and it shall be played!" This was said in the presence of both authors! The position adopted by Levitin was quite understandable - many years later a singer, Yu.Grigoryev admitted to the composer's son, that while performing the vocal part of the 9th Symphony (conducted by Barshai) in 1975, he felt fear of the possible consequences. I remember, in the mid-70's A.L. offered a record of his symphonic poem At the Top of One's Voice to a radio program, and received the following answer from the omnipotent G.Lapin: "We already have a composer to write music on Mayakovsky's poetry - Georgy Sviridov, and we don't need anybody else."
It was not all that hopeless, however. The performance of his 3rd Symphony (on the verses by Kipling) by Gennady Rozhdestvensky and the BBC Orchestra in London in 1979, brought a great joy to A.L. When he presented the record at the Symphonic Section, it produced a strong impression on everyone, and it seemed one could hope that the composition would be performed again in Moscow and its scores would be published. But since Kipling was still considered as "the poet of imperialism", the symphony was doomed to be rejected by our publishers and excluded from concert programs.
The deaths of Jansons and Lavrentyev, the emigration of Barshai each came as a great blow for A.L. He always set the highest demands to himself and others and subsequently failed to establish satisfactory collaboration with other conductors. Although R. Barshai continued to play A.L.'s music in Europe, it was not heard in Russia any more.
Two secretaries of the Soviet Composers Union spoke standing next to A.L. coffin at the civil funeral at the House of Composers on June 13, 1987. One of them - Karen Khachaturian was frank enough to repent of the wrong party bosses of the Composers Union had done to the dead composer, and he ended his speech with these exact words: "We stigmatized him."
I don't want to end these recollections on a gloomy note. There were many happy days in A.L.'s life; he recalled the time he studied at the Moscow Conservatoire with delight. He loved to tell stories about composition students hiding with their desks behind heavy curtains before the lectures of a professor, who was so absent-minded he would go out and look for them, only to find everybody in their places on his return; about himself and one of his best friends Andrei Sevastyanov riding in the Conservatoire lift, while young communist activists chased them running up and down the stairs; about the way he managed to write music in the Conservatoire hostel, while a trombonist was rehearsing just above his ear; about him and his roommate in the hostel having only one pair of decent trousers, so that they were unable to leave the room both at one time; about the strong man Andrei Sevastyanov playing an unusual trick in order to save shortsighted A.L. from hooligans - he ran away, pretending to be frightened; about a certain party activist, who, while almost everyone at the Conservatoire joined the levies at the beginning of the war, ran away with the party cash-box…