About creative work
Summary of Anna Skirdova’s* article
About creative work of M.I. Kuss and the “Lyric poem"
Margarita's career, whose life was entirely connected with Moscow, began during war years. Having finished the music college under the Moscow Conservatory, she entered the Moscow Conservatory in 1943, where she studied composition with Vissarion Yakovlevich Shebalin and graduated from it in 1948.
Among her works first of all it is necessary to mention the chamber, vocal and instrumental lyrics. Compositions of these genres are not infrequently performed in Russia and abroad. Margarita.Kuss's two romances as obligatory compositions sounded at the All-Russian M. Glinka Competition and at the VII-th international P. Tchaikovsky Competition. Among vocal works she has a lot of cycles: “From poetry of Michelangelo” – vocal cycle for soprano and piano 1975-1976. Translation from Italian by A.M. Efros. Two cycles of romances under the name "Lyrics of Russian poets" (for bass and piano, and for mezzo-soprano and piano) on verses of Blok, Tiutchev, Bunin, Zabolotsky (published in 1989 and 1996). The Author was inspired by wonderful Russian verses full of feelings written by the Russian classical poets. For Russian songs for voice and piano the composer selected little-known songs, not used earlier by anyone. It gave to the author a freedom in interpretation, opportunity to bring a lot of new and her own to the musical language of the songs. During the last years of her life Margarita composed the following vocal works: “From Tiutchev’ s poetry”, vocal cycle for voice and piano (1998), the cycle “Lyrics of Ivan Bunin” (2005) and “Autumn Evening”, vocal cycle in five parts for voice and piano, words by F. Tiutchev. This work was composed in summer 2003 and was dedicated to the bicentenary of F. Tiutchev’s birthday. All these vocal cycles were performed at the festivals “Moscow autumn”.
The instrumental chamber music is presented by three violin sonatas (published in 1969, 1977 and 2006) which are successfully performed both in Russia and abroad. The majority of composer’s pleasant recollections are associated with these works. In 2001 Margarita finished her work on Trio for piano, violin and cello (published in 2004).
She also composed a “Poem for violin and piano” full of feelings (2004), which enjoyed a success at the international festivals “Moscow Autumn”. For many centuries composers of various nationalities have put in the voice of violin their “songs without words” and now it sounds again in the duet with piano, in the sonatas of Margarita Ivanovna Kuss.
Symphonic compositions form an essential part in Margarita's music legacy. All of them were performed at the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. “The Poem on themes of Russian folk songs” for a symphony orchestra was performed in 1964 by the outstanding conductor Evgeny Svetlanov and the State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR .
Sinfonietta, second edition (1984), “The Lyric poem” (1988) and three poems for a symphony orchestra “the Far Spring” (1994) were performed by the Tchaikovsky symphony orchestra, conductor Vladimir Fedoseyev.
The symphonic poem “Cryptic Area…” (1999 - 2000) is very likely to be a peculiar symbol of the composer’s whole life. It could not be so simple to express by words the innermost secrets, thoughts, feelings and wishes of a human being soul and in that case MUSIC is born…
In symphonic compositions of Margarita Kuss solo of orchestral instruments is constantly heard. She may possibly “hear” the voices of human souls in every instrumental timbre striving to bring to us their unexpressed wishes, thoughts, aspirations… “Every person has his/her own “Cryptic area…” – the composer repeated these words, commenting upon the name of her composition. An incomprehensible enigma is hidden in her artistic creation – a small part of attitude and perception of the Composer. Margarita Ivanovna Kuss entrusted the secrets of her heart to Music. We shall also try to hear and to understand them…
"The Lyric poem" for the symphony orchestra (Des-dur) was composed in 1988, for the first time was performed in 1989 in Moscow at the festival "Moscow Autumn" by the Tchaikovsky symphony orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Ivanovich Fedoseyev. The same orchestra and Maestro performed this composition at the music festival in Vienna, Grosser Musikvereinssaal in 1996.
The unusual name of this work draws at once an attention. A poem is a genre which in our understanding is inseparably linked with romantic music, and exactly in this way it was treated by the composer: Margarita Ivanovna said that the feelings of freedom and imagination were very important to her in this work . Why is the lyric poem? It is so because the whole world of images in the composition is imbued with emotional moods of meditation, reflections and recollections.
Of course, the lyrics has also tumultuous ups and downs, but nevertheless not so fatal, as a drama or tragedy. By the way, this name has come to the composer upon the completion of work on the score.
The epigraph to the Poem is a line taken from F.Tiutchev's poem:
The sorrow and joy of the days which are gone...
According to my feelings from getting familiarized with this composition, and by an acknowledgement of the composer herself, these words are not programmatic for the Poem. They were prefaced, so that listening to the music, everyone would think, recollecting something of his/her own - surprisingly familiar and personal, and everyone’s heart ached from these sad and pleasant moments at the same time; and it was so that such emotions were put by the composer in her work.
Margarita wrote “the Lyric Poem” for the Tchaikovsky Big symphony orchestra conducted by Vladimir Fedoseyev. It resulted in unusual orchestration of the Poem: periodic contrasting of sounding tutti with ensembles of instruments, while the combinations of timbres are quite various – duet of violin and cello, three flutes, dialogue of a French horn and oboe on the background of strings, numerous solos of a trumpet and other instruments.
“This work I wrote for my long-time friends: Maestro Vladimir Fedoseyev and his Orchestra - I knew that for the first time my work would be performed by them. I wanted for many members of the orchestra, whom I know rather well, to write solo or to give the chance to sound in ensemble - therefore in the Poem there are so many such episodes. In the process of work it is always necessary for composer to imagine how it will be performed, how soloists will play solo and how the whole orchestra will sound in tutti”.
It is necessary to say that to such instrumental solution the interpretation of sonata form in the Poem contributed a lot. The composer keeps the basic sections, but their construction is very individual, especially in a reprise. It is this part of the form is noted for a particular chamber sounding, here one after another soloists and ensembles follow. The main culmination of the composition occurs at the end of work, and in the reprise the gradual soothing is quite natural and literally "dissolving in the air", going away in " a beautiful distant spot".
“- For this poem, I have prepared various thematic materials. As I quite freely handle here with sonata form, I found it possible to use new themes not only in the introduction and exposition, but even in the reprise”.
“ - I really wanted to give solo to the trumpet so that at the end of the composition, like an echo of all the events, in its part would sound a very high note – up to the third octave ” (from a letter).
"The Lyric Poem" of Margarita Kuss is one more word of love and sorrow, which quietly sounded on the background of universal crying and tragedy. And it was not lost in the musical world, it continued a sequence of similar statements of such composers as B.A. Tchaikovsky, A.G. Chugayev. Despite the fact that there are not so many such words, but they help us to live and see the beautiful things kept in our memory and those which exist near us. And I would like to wish only that we should not forget how to say such kind and sincere words.
*Author: Anna Skirdova graduated from the Moscow State Conservatory named after P.I. Tchaikovsky with honours majoring in “musicology”. She has the PHD degree in art criticism.