Παρασκευή, 1 Ιουνίου 2012

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No.1

Αντιγράφω - αμετάφραστο λόγω έλλειψης χρόνου -  από τη σελίδα του σπουδαίου Ρώσου πιανίστα Andrei Vladimirovich Gavrilov στο Facebook ένα άρθρο του με σκέψεις, ιστορικές αναφορές και αναλυτικά και ερμηνευτικά σχόλια για το 1ο κοντσέρτο για πιάνο του Tchaikovsky.
Αξίζει να αναφέρουμε εδώ ότι σε ηλικία 18 ετών, με ένα ένα μόλις εξάμηνο σπουδών στο Ωδείο της Μόσχας, κέρδισε το Διαγωνισμό Τσαϊκόφσκι και ξεκίνησε η διεθνής καριέρα του.

The Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 is a huge hit nowadays.

No other classical piece is played so often, including performances at countless competitions. This constant repetition has discredited and exhausted the wonderful, delicate work. Abuse of Concerto No. 1 in the USSR and in Russia at all sorts of celebrations, in the past they were communist, and now they are patriotic, has led to the concerto setting the teeth on edge for many Russians, while in other countries it is often taken to be a musical apotheosis of Russian nationalist chauvinism.

This musical work, however, is woven from melodical modulations of the human soul, this singing, symphonic philosophy of life, this sweet Russian symphonic existentialism belongs possibly to the top ten greatest creations of human genius. In order to perform Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1, a pianist must not only be technically perfect, but also have the appropriate life experience, be in tune with the wonderful Russian culture of the 19th century, and have a profound understanding of Russian religious philosophy or, as it is sometimes known, the organic wisdom of life.

I have been playing Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto all my life. The fresh, sweet, melodious wind of life that blows through my heart – that is the music of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. I have been playing the concerto in this way for 35 years – carefree, happy and delighted. Revelling in the beauty of the harmonies, surrendering myself to them. At the same time I also felt that something in the fabric of the music was not entirely the sweetness and light of Russian Shrovetide celebrations, and that Tchaikovsky’s music takes us back to something colossal, pre-Biblical. Against the background of the hymns of joy and plenitude of being there are horrors and disruptions slipping through in the music. One can hear fears, and guess at an agonising inner struggle. It is not only the azure vistas that open up, but also the chasms of darkness.

I thought a great deal about the Piano Concerto No. 1, and it often sounded in my mind; it came to me and suffused me. It would linger with me for a long while. One day this marvellous music detonated my consciousness. It was as though the “codes” of this wonderful piece were revealed to me in the sort of enlightenment that occurs in Zen Buddhism. Ever since then I have played the concerto differently.

Unfortunately, not everything can be put into words. It is well known that music starts where words lose their power. The Piano Concerto No. 1 is Tchaikovsky’s cosmos, his Book of Genesis. In the introduction, Tchaikovsky presents the creation of the world. The mighty blows of the French horn are the days, the acts of creation. These are the words of the Creator, His voice. His pulse. The trumps of the archangels. The call of the ancestors. The forceful cry of the prophets. The act of creation is continued by the blacksmith demiurge, the pianist. He forges the universe out of chaos with his hammer of harmony. Around him revolve the clouds of the melodic Glory of God.

The composer shows us the creation of the world from the viewpoint of the Creator. Tchaikovsky is not watching this scene, he does not hear it; he is himself creating. Not as the successor to creation, but as God. The extraordinary popularity of the introduction is because the composer wrote music of such power and beauty that people submit to the author’s will, without even understanding what the music is “about” and “what” it is. They heed the creation and admire it.
The beginning of Concerto No. 1 is the most famous music on the planet. In all my life I have never met a single person who did not know this tune, from peasants to kings.

The task of the performer is to play the introduction in such a way that the public feels with every fibre in their bodies, the creation of the world as a great exultation and sacrament. However many times a musician performs this piece, he has to become a demiurge, the creator of the universe during the introduction, every time. Then the introduction will not sound vulgar or pompous or frivolous, like a waltz. It will not sound falsely patriotic, revoltingly majestic or trivially nationalistic. God and Pyotr Tchaikovsky did not create Russia for the Russians, they created the WORLD! Day and night. Water and land. Air and fire. Plants, animals, fish, humankind. The peoples of the world. That is the scope of the start of this concerto. A universal, cosmic scope. At the same time, starting with the main theme of the first movement, the music of Concerto No. 1 is the personal experiences of the composer. Tchaikovsky the musical genius was an exceptionally sensitive and vulnerable man. His homosexuality, against which he struggled for many years as a dishonourable sin, was difficult to integrate into the morals and concepts of society at that time and the milieu in which he had to live. In the mid 1870s Tchaikovsky felt like a man looking into a deep abyss. Life “outside the abyss”, however, oppressed him. He was frightened of giving into his sensual nature, of hurling himself into the abyss. He was scared of smashing against the bottom of the chasm. His own Golgotha among his friends, the “court of honour” awaited him. This court in judgment upon himself took place in the composer’s soul throughout his thinking life. Tchaikovsky wrote about his sufferings many times in his diaries and letters to his brothers. The composer’s sufferings were reflected in the first movement of the Concerto, filled with a love of life on the one hand, and on the other saturated with horror at the reality of life and his own fate. That was Tchaikovsky, constantly caught between horror and rapture. Simultaneously between ecstasy and the nightmare of reality.

Tchaikovsky wrote the Piano Concerto No. 1 while he was still subjecting himself to monstrous constraint to avoid gaining a reputation for buggery (active sodomy) and at least somewhat to conform to the image of a “normal man” in the society of the times. In 1876 he even got married. By the end of the 1870s he was already “living in the abyss”. He was living as nature had genetically determined he should. But in the early 1890s Tchaikovsky did “smash” after all. Whether deliberately or with the aid of cholera is uncertain. It is no accident that the main theme of the concerto is taken from an old sorrowful song by blind beggar musicians, and seems to carry within it Tchaikovsky’s fatal fragility. His rejection, his otherworldliness. His sorrow. The second theme presents the other aspect of his personality – the tender, loving attachment to mortal life. Having shown in the primary and secondary themes the two driving forces in his soul, Pyotr Ilyich provides a musical prophecy of what awaits him. He reconstructs the fatal train of events that will lead to his death in the future. Starting with Concerto No. 1, the theme of implacable fate exists in almost all of Tchaikovsky’s symphonic works. In the first movement of the concerto, Fatum is manifested by the relentless trombones and sombre bassoons. At the end of the development section, Tchaikovsky reproduces a dialogue between his lyrical hero (the piano) and the powers of fate (the orchestra). The hero begs for salvation. This prayer and trepidation of a man faced with Fatum is represented also in the solo cadenza.

Starting with the “Allegro con spirito”, performers usually play the first movement of the concerto at the wrong tempos. This more often than not leads to a disruption of the whole musical architecture of the piece. How can the right tempo allegro be found?

In the secondary theme it indicates – “Tempo primo”. It is obvious, however, that the secondary theme must be performed in an unhurried manner, with love. “Tempo primo” of course refers to the main theme, not to the theme of the introduction. The “Tempo primo” of the secondary theme must be at the same tempo as the main theme “Allegro con spirito”. Then it all makes sense.

Usually “Allegro con spirito” is performed one and a half, or two times faster than it should be. The F minor octaves in the culmination likewise seem absurdly fast, and they should be performed at tempo, with no slowing down of the speed. If the tempo is wrong from the start, then the whole piece naturally takes on a caricature form, loses its logic and falls apart. The secondary theme “poco meno mosso” is usually played too slowly. Only after a revision of the tempos such as this does it become clear exactly how profound and magical is the music written by Tchaikovsky. Only if the tempos are correct does it become possible to intonate every note with care and gentleness worthy of the composer. In the second movement, sketched outlines for Eugene Onegin can be perceived. Peaceable pictures of Russian nature, the countryside, the manor estate. The “shot” in the reprise leads one to think of the duel between Lensky and Onegin. The short recitative by the piano reminds one of Onegin’s muttered, “He is killed, killed…” There are also musical images that remind one of future themes in The Queen of Spades. The old French folk song reminds us of the agonised delirium of an old woman remembering dances with French aristocrats in the 18th century. The finale of the concerto is optimistic. The composer moves away from the Bible and from his own problems and gives himself entirely over to an ecstatic Ukrainian feast day. In the concerto finale, magical Christmas landscapes stretch out, with heroes from early Gogol dancing, and the whole world rejoicing. The first theme signifies the “male” element, the well-known Ukrainian song Viydi, viydi Ivanku, (Come, come Ivanku). The secondary theme manifests the female element, the physicality and contentment of Ukrainian beauties and handsome young men. At the end, before the coda, Vakula the Smith soars across the musical heaven, riding the Devil to St Petersburg to the tsaritsa’s court to ask for her boots for his beautiful Oxana. This ecstatic flight ends with the crash of a fall. Vakula lands in the palace, with the elegantly dressed courtiers dancing the polonaise all around him. The apotheosis of the scene is the majestic appearance of Catherine the Great.

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