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Alexander Tchaikovsky: “The composer is like an actor, he is a performer”

Artistic director of the Moscow Philharmonic, professor at the Moscow Conservatory, composer Alexander Tchaikovsky told Kultura.RF portal about the history of the Union of Composers, about the strengths and weaknesses of Russian music education and what it means to be a real composer.

– Alexander Vladimirovich, the All-Russian Festival of the Union of Composers of Russia, which will be held in 11 cities, will start in May, and you will take part in it. What is the peculiarity of this format of the show? What do you expect from the festival?

– First, I expect him to seriously reanimate the large-scale activities of the Union of Composers in terms of the performance of his compositions. Since there is no reason to conceal, for many years if there have been concerts, they are very modest. In the regions, sometimes they were settled according to poverty, but there was not a wide coverage, as in Soviet times, for a very long time. And I hope that this will be a sign that the Composers Union is trying to restore its authority, and, in general, one of the main directions of its activity – the execution of new compositions.

– In Soviet times, the Union of Composers held an honorable place among cultural associations. Were such festivals held under his aegis then? Tell about them?

– Yes, such festivals were held at least twice a year, and sometimes there were three, because every year there was some plenum of the USSR Union of Composers, and all the plenary meetings and congresses were primarily music festivals. Plus, some direction has always arranged its concerts and festivals, because then we had a genre division: a section of popular songs, symphonic music, chamber, youth. In addition, there was the Moscow Autumn and the Leningrad Spring, which also took place on a large scale. For example, only symphony concerts at the Moscow Autumn in the Great Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory were seven or eight.

– How did your personal musical journey begin? Who brought you to the music? What role did your paternal uncle play, composer Boris Tchaikovsky?

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– My path began, as usual, in a music school – Central Music School (Central Music School. – Approx. Aut.). Uncle had a very big impact. At first, we lived together in a communal apartment and the class until the fifth communicated very closely. His composer friends came to him, then they became famous, and I looked at it all, I really liked his circle of communication. In addition, I liked that composers do not need to study the piano for several hours, that they are freer people than performers. Then, when we left and began to live separately, my father and I went to his premieres, watched what he wrote there. But then I did not think at all about the career of a composer. Everything happened quite by accident, and I would say – late: I was then 21 years old. I studied as a pianist and began to write music only at the Conservatory, when my hand ached. I then outplayed my hand – wildly preparing for a competition in Paris. He played for 5–6 hours a day difficult things – he did not calculate. And in these six weeks, until I could play, I wrote several romances. There was absolutely nothing to do, and for some reason I wanted to. From this, in fact, it all started.

– And who did you study at the Conservatory with? How did your fellow students come together? Have they become known, have they brought something new to Soviet and Russian music?

– I had very strong fellow students. First, when I studied as a pianist, Victor Tretyakov was on my course – he became a great violinist, the winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition; Valery Afanasyev – now famous pianist, however, lives in France; Dima Alekseev is also a pianist of world fame, he is now in London. And on the composer we were only six people. Dmitry Smirnov, a famous composer of avant-garde direction, after the collapse of the Union went to England. Tolib Shahidi – he came to Moscow from Tajikistan – is now actively working; Vladimir Belyaev teaches in Gnesinka and writes a lot.

– What was the first significant piece of music for you? Are there many such “special” compositions among composers?

– The first Cello concerto, when it was very well received. I was still a graduate student – 1975. He played in the Great Hall of the Conservatory with success, and then later he became quite repertoire, he was performed by many cellists. In general, each essay is “special.” When you write, for you it is the most important. And then in each piece you set microtasks for yourself, including what you want to do for the first time. For myself. Maybe it is unnoticeable to the public. In any case, I think that it is necessary that the composer set himself some new task every time. If it works, then the composition is included in the repertoire, and not played once or twice. And if not … the devil knows – you will never guess.

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