Seven Minutes of Tone Row Meditations

© Charles Thibo

At work. Time suspended. A revelation, once more. Edison Denisov’s music. Three Pieces for Cello and Piano, written in 1967. Clarity. Darkness. The legacy of the Soviet Union, the dogma of Socialist Realism and the intrusion of serialism*. Wrap your arms around me. A water drop is falling. Memories of Birtwistle’s piece … What a fascinating piece! Seven minutes of a musical meditation. How weird it must have sounded in a Moscow concert hall in the 1960s.

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When the Soviet Avant-garde Raised its Voice

Denisov Sonata Cello Piano
Mediation about life. © Charles Thibo

Dmitry Shostakovich was his teacher and mentor, but the student went beyond the limits Shostakovich had helped to define. In the Soviet Union this was quite an achievement. Edison Denisov moves into the realm of sound clusters and minimal music that others have explored before, albeit in an environment where creativity and expressivity were less restricted: György Ligeti in West Germany, Luciano Berio in Italy, Steve Reich in the United States. How did this square with the doctrine of “Socialist Realism” that Soviet music was to follow?

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Soul-searching with Dmitry’s Second Cello Concerto

The Unknown. © Charles Thibo

Eery. That’s what it is – eery. Shostakovich’s second cello concerto. I am currently playing one of Shostakovich’s preludes and will embark on learning the corresponding fugue soon. Odd accords, odd sound, odd melodies. Shostakovich’s music is odd and he was the odd man out among the Soviet Union’s composers. Subversive in sounds and thoughts. Ambiguous whenever possible. That’s probably the reason why I love his music.

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A Quartet Written on the Way to Tashkent

Weinberg Quartet2_edited-1
Time has come. © Charles Thibo

It is rather striking that I have never mentioned the composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg. He was a pupil of Dmitry Shostakovitch. I love Shostakovich’s music. And so far I ignored Weinberg. My first encounter with this composer was, let’s say, unfruitful. It was too early. Now it seems to me that it is almost too late.

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