Elena Kuschnerova
About Lokshin

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 service.
    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 of them.
    "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 with Variations.
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 working hours...
    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 it here):

                We are but beasts held captive,
                We wail, trying the best we can.
                The doors are shut, not active,
                To open them we dare not plan

    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 international competition…"