The Soviet era was generous with talents. The history of world culture includes the names of brilliant Soviet pianists, violinists, cellists, singers and, of course, conductors. At this time, formed a modern idea of the role of the conductor – the leader, organizer, master. What were the music leaders of the Soviet era? We offer our readers five portraits from the gallery of outstanding conductors.
Nikolai Golovanov (1891–1953)
Already at the age of six, during his walk, Nikolai tried to conduct a military band. In 1900, a young music lover was accepted into the Synodal School. Here his vocal, conductor and composer abilities were revealed.
Having become a mature master, Golovanov would write with great love about the years of teaching: “The synodal school gave me everything — moral principles, lifestyles, the ability to work a lot and systematically, instilled a sacred discipline.”
After several years of work as a regent, Nikolai entered the composition class of the Moscow Conservatory. In 1914, he graduated with a small gold medal. Throughout his life, Nikolai Semenovich wrote spiritual chants. He continued to work in this genre even when religion was proclaimed “the opium of the people.”
In 1915, Golovanov was accepted into the Bolshoi Theater. It all started with the modest post of assistant choirmaster, and in 1948 he became the chief conductor. Relations with the renowned theater were not always smooth: Nikolai Golovanov had to endure many offenses and disappointments. But they did not remain in history, but brilliant interpretations of Russian opera and symphonic classics, bright premieres of works by contemporary composers and the first radio broadcasts of classical music in the USSR with his participation.
Conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky recalls the master in the following way: “He could not bear the middle. Indifferent middle. And in the nuance, and in the phrasing, and in relation to the case. ”
Although Golovanov had no student conductors, his interpretations of the Russian classics became models for young musicians. The founder of the Soviet conducting school was destined to become Alexander Gauk.
Fragment of the performance of the overture by Tchaikovsky “1812”
Alexander Gauk (1893–1963)
Alexander Gauk studied at the Petrograd Conservatory. He studied composition in the class of Alexander Glazunov, conducting – in the class of Nikolai Cherepnin.
In 1917, the musical and theatrical period of his life begins: he works in the Petrograd Theater of Musical Drama, and then in the Leningrad Opera and Ballet Theater.
In the 1930s, symphonic music became the focus of Gauk’s interests. For several years he led the symphony orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonic Society, and in 1936 headed the newly created State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR. He didn’t miss the theater, only regretted that he never had a chance to stage Tchaikovsky’s beloved “Queen of Spades”.
In 1953, Gauk became the chief conductor of the USSR Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra. This work was very intense and interesting. The orchestra played the program, as they say, live. In 1961, the maestro was “politely” sent into retirement.
Joy for Gauk was pedagogical activity. Evgeny Mravinsky, Alexander Melik-Pashayev, Evgeny Svetlanov, Nikolay Rabinovich – all of them were students of the maestro.
Yevgeny Mravinsky, himself a renowned master himself, will write to his teacher in a congratulatory letter: “You are our only conductor carrying the traditions of a truly great culture.”
Yevgeny Mravinsky (1903-1988)
The whole life of Mravinsky was connected with Petersburg – Leningrad. He was born into a noble family, but in difficult years he had to deal with “non-noble” affairs. For example, to work as an extra in the Mariinsky Theater. An important role in his fate was played by the personality of the director of the theater, Emil Cooper: “It was he who implanted in me that grandeur of poison, which for the rest of my life connected me with the conducting art.”
For the sake of music, Mravinsky left the university and entered the Petrograd Conservatory. First, the student diligently engaged in composition, and then became interested in conducting. In 1929 he came to the Gauk class and very quickly mastered the basics of this complex (or “dark”, as Rimsky-Korsakov said) case. At the end of the conservatory, Mravinsky becomes an assistant conductor of the Leningrad Opera and Ballet Theater.
In 1937 there was the first meeting of the conductor with the music of Dmitry Shostakovich. Mravinsky was entrusted with the premiere of his Fifth Symphony.
At first, Shostakovich even scared the conductor’s method of work: “About every measure, every thought, Mravinsky gave me a genuine interrogation, demanding from me an answer to all the doubts he had. But on the fifth day of our collaboration, I realized that this method is absolutely correct. ”
After this premiere, Shostakovich’s music will become a constant maestro’s life companion.
In 1938, Mravinsky won the First All-Union Conducting Competition and was immediately appointed the head of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. Many orchestra artists were significantly older than the conductor.