It was my mother, Inna Kuschnerova, who introduced me to the house
of Alexander Lazarevich Lokshin. She was Lokshin's student at the Conservatory
from 1944 to 1948. Mother was lucky, as at an early stage in her life, when
she was still a student, she had the benefit of associating with a musician
of such a scale, as Lokshin. In my time - at the end of the 1970's and the
beginning of the 1980's - the outstanding musicians who used to teach at
the Moscow Conservatory were but a memory there: "some are but no more, the
others are away" - in other words, some died and others - "purged out", dismissed
like Lokshin, in order to prevent them from disturbing the minds of future
builders of communism.
I heard about Lokshin and his wonderful music from
my childhood, but I met him in person much later, when I already was a student
of the Moscow Conservatory, i.e. I had reached a certain level of professional
maturity in music, which in my mother's view gave me the right to play
in front of so reputable a musician. Our friendship with Alexander Lazarevich
began that day, and it was to continue until his death, although in fact,
it continues to this day. He gave me a reference point, a scale of absolute
values, no musician, and indeed, no person can do without.
I am not sure whether I can call myself Lokshins's
pupil. I have never been his student, and one could hardly call the meetings
we had lessons. But for me his house was the only one where people talked
about music and literature, art and life. The Moscow Conservatory by the time
I went to study there, unfortunately, had turned into a factory, producing
winners of various competitions, but there simply was no time left for
conversations about music. At Lokshin's place I could always expect to
hear not just a dry evaluation of my work, with its imperfections being
pointed out, but an inspired and engaging discussion about the meaning of
the composition at hand, about the sound of piano, and many other subjects.
It prompted one to think, search for, and explore new ways in art. As I later
have come to understand, those studies, along with the chance they provided
to listen to music, including the music of Alexander Lazarevich, made a major
contribution to my musical education, and on the whole, to the development
of my personality.
I would like to revive once again my first impressions
of Lokshin's music. Beautiful as it was, and seemingly understandable from
the very first time you listened to it, it however evoked new feelings every
time one encountered with it. To put it in a single word it was genuine.
And everything about it was genuine: the sentiments, the language - all on
its own, unlike any other, with its own themes, in a word, the music was
dissimilar to everything what was done at that time, it went against all
dogmas, and new fashionable trends. I remember being rooted to the spot, with
my breath taken away, when for the first time I heard the 9th Symphony with
the following words by Leonid Martynov: "A man who was hit… A man with enemies
appointed to guard him from four sides…" ending with: "I spoke to God that
stifling night…" Good Lord! He spoke of God in those years! In the country
of victorious socialism, in "the era of great accomplishments".
It's very difficult to write about Alexander Lazarevich
not only because writing about a close person is always a difficult task,
but also because speaking of him I would like to avoid off-putting trite
,clichés which the ear refuses to discern: genius, outstanding, great…
What words should I find for you, dear Alexander Lazarevich, if epithets
like "greatness" and "national importance" are nowadays often attached to
ordinary people of moderate abilities merely on the grounds of their long
Unfortunately, I have to write about Alexander Lazarevich
from memory, as I have never kept any diaries, or made any notes, which
would help to piece up our conversations, the remarks Alexander Lazarevich
made, the discussions about various pieces of music, or at least the thoughts
and feelings I had at the time. However, I will try to remember the history
of writing of The Variations on Lokshin's own piano themes, a composition
written specially for me and dedicated to me. It was the second of two sequences
of variations, and in fact of all compositions Lokshin had ever written
for the piano. He wrote the first set of variations in 1953 and dedicated
them to Maria Grinberg, who made some exceptional performances and recordings
"My Variations", as we later came to call them (initially
they were called Variazioni Brevi) were written in 1982 , in an incredibly
short time, within a single breath (in two days, as far as I remember).
Later a prelude was added. The final version is titled A Prelude and a Theme
It's a short piece (8 minutes long) concentrating in itself a whole array
of imagery typical of Lokshin's symphonies. One can hear various instrumental
solos, the orchestral tutti, and even the human voice almost obligatory
in Lokshin's work.
Monophonic theme (a kind of variation of an A sound)
is at first clear and melancholy, then it develops, varies, only to return
to the same A, once again monophonic, and suggestive of loneliness. I remember
Lokshin telling me he had written "double notes" specially for me, as they
were reminiscent of the List 's Wandering Lights, which I played at that
time, always causing Alexander Lazarevich to smile with delight; and the
modulated passages running through the entire keyboard in the prelude are
inspired by our joint work on Les reflections sur l'eau by Debussy. I also
remember the touching moment when Alexander Lazarevich, apologizing, explained
to me, that in the second variation, in the left hand passage there was, unfortunately,
"no system": it was neither chromatic, nor was it a scale, in short, "nothing
could be done about it". Nothing, indeed, could be done, for in this passage,
just as in Lokshin's music on the whole there was an undeniable musical logic.
When Alexander Lazarevich played the Variations to
me for the first time, I was, I must admit, somewhat confused. Of course
I liked the Variations straight away, but I was afraid I might not be able
to play them. It was not only technical complexity - the Variations were
imbued with tremendous intellectual and emotional connotations, and demanded
total dedication from the performer. Would I be able to deal with it? Alexander
Lazarevich played it brilliantly, although he had not been practicing!
I could hear in the Variations a confession of the artist, put forward in
a very simple way, yet containing so much pain in it! What a pity, that
virtually no one could hear that! Uncommonly beautiful and refined sound,
incredible temperament, and… understanding. That is to say - a whole complex
of qualities, which distinguish exceptional musicians. But let's go back
to the Variations. Having expressed my gratitude to Alexander Lazarevich,
the next day I set about learning them. To my great surprise, everything
went smoothly right away. The Variations could be learned easily and quickly,
for they were written in an easy and natural manner, they were "open", so
to say. Every wrong note immediately "fell out", as it's usually the case
with well known classical pieces. A feature quite unusual in the modern
pieces, unless, of course, they follow classical models…
I play "my Variations" quite often and do it willingly,
they are never "out of place", they instantly appeal to the audience and
the press alike, who are puzzled by the fact that the composer's name is
unknown to the general public. I made several recordings of the Variations:
in Moscow, Amsterdam, and in Germany.
Diverting from the Variations, I'd like to share some
of my recollections about our studying sessions with Alexander Lazarevich.
I would sit down at the piano, an old Bösendorfer, and start to play.
Alexander Lazarevich first listened to the whole piece, and inevitably he
vividly reacted to what I was playing: he either made expressive gestures,
which I could see with my side vision, or held his breath at "obscure places",
or, to the contrary, sighed heavily at the beginning of a new phrase, by
such sighs alone preventing me from going further, "interrupting" me. It
all helped even before he would discuss or advise anything, as a natural reaction
to what was happening at the instrument. And of course, the facial expressions!
They could almost make one guess what music was actually played! The demonstrations
alone were worth it all! To a swift touch the instrument immediately responded
with a sound of unusual richness and beauty! One could take for a particular
favorable response that wonderful, perhaps – happy, smile of Alexander Lazarevich,
which I have already mentioned. It was a combination of satisfaction from
"hitting the nail on the head", and his emotive pride of me, and the enjoyment
from our joint musical exercises. As the evening continued we listened to
music… Everybody sat down comfortably, each given sheets of music,
and in an instant… a music was playing, - often it was Alexander Lazarevich's
music. Sometimes he ran up to the piano striking an accord, the most "important"
one, in attempt to put the right emphasis.
Everything comes to an end. Those wonderful evenings
also used to end in discussions about the music just heard and my hasty escapes
home. Always untimely, but, alas, inevitable because of the public transport
Before I finish my brief, inconsequent notes I want
to quote a poem by F. Sologub, the second of the three on which the Suite
for soprano and piano (1983) was based (below I'll explain why I am citing
We are but beasts held captive,
I performed this sequence with a singer Raisa Levina
in 1988, when Alexander Lazarevich already had died, and I played "my Variations"
in the same concert. The two compositions were very closely related to each
other in terms of their themes… all over a sudden it was growing dark in
my eyes! I had a lump in my throat, and I was afraid I could break down in
tears: "So, that's what they were all about - "my Variations". They were
written a year before The Three Poems by F.Sologub, and just a few
months before I was denied a chance to go abroad and to take part in that
We wail, trying the best we can.
The doors are shut, not active,
To open them we dare not plan.