Russian

Recollections

RECOLLECTIONS OF MARGARITA KUSS ABOUT HER FRIENDS AND YEARS OF STUDY AT THE MOSCOW CONSERVATORY.

I have known Shurik Chugayev since 1942, the war years. I studied at the Merzlyakovsky college and Igor Vladimirovich Sposobin, my teacher, took me to see Vissarion Yakovlevich Shebalin. Shurik and Borya Tchaikovsky came from the Gnessin School. We have always been together - they are like my brothers. We all were with Shebalin, attended classes, concerts, all the premieres too - and together we all suffered the terrible 1948, when a well - known Resolution was issued.

ce52e4259f9af6393a2aca395ed825a8.jpgWhen we became students of the Conservatory, Vissarion Yakovlevich Shebalin was already the Conservatory Director. In the most difficult war years, he gave us free coupons to the canteen. We ate cabbage soup there, some meatballs with pasta or potatoes. Richter also used to go there. He was already a senior student of the Moscow Conservatory; he and Tolya Vedernikov were always together. They met in classrooms, they kept their own company and played new compositions, as well as compositions of Mahler and Wagner for four hands. And the musical youth used to come there. It was in 1943 and 1944, shortly before the end of the War. We got acquainted with Herman Galynin there: he was an amazing, tremendously gifted person. Shurik, and Borya had always been fond of him. All of us were devastated when Herman fell seriously ill. It was terrible, truly awful. He was such a gifted, bright man. He studied composition, but was also a brilliant pianist.

On the second or third floor of the Conservatory when you leave the lift, immediately on the left, there was a small room where there were seats and a blackboard. We had lectures in ‘political economy’ in this room. At that time Marxizm and political economy were compulsory subjects.
We are seating through a lecture in political economy, we study: commodity - money - commodity. I sit next to Shurik. Shura is writing and writing something in his notebook. I cast a glance at it. He says to me: "Ritochka, I am trying to accomplish some mathematical tasks." And I cast a glance again and see there are columns, numbers, numbers, numbers ...

Then, at his home, I saw books on the shelves: harmony, polyphony, music history, as well as musical scores, they had a different format. Then I noticed books on higher mathematics. He was aware of all such things, knew and passionately liked them. But Shurik, with the knowledge of this exact science, did not try to cram his compositions with mathematical figures. He did not need these formulas, he did not need to invent. He could have invented some theories, could have implemented some computational innovations. But he did not need such things! He knew that music first of all should go from the heart and should have impressive melodies. Melody has been a great thing in all the times. He had his immense musical world, his melodic, harmonic ability. His polyphonic thinking was not something learned, of course training was a natural thing, but he also had a feeling for polyphony.

Shurik was a unique person and knew how difficult things can be easily explained, he was a good teacher, even when he was still a student. I say: "Shurik, something does not work here." He stands behind with his cigarette, “Belomorcanal”, as always screws up his eyes, thinks of it and says: You know ... if something does not work – recall polyphony . Or if the beginning of composition isnt working - the most difficult is to start and finish works: "You need to warm up, play - and as if nobody can hear you, no one can see you, but you sing, improvise, play symphonies, and something of what you need will dash right out through your playing. No matter what I was composing, Shurik seemed to stand behind me, listening to my playing. I wish I could always ask his advice - what would Shurik advise now? And it happens so that my requirements to myself become higher, as if Shurik hears me. Such an unusual friend! God sent him to me, he was like a gift of fate. He thought only about music. No materialism, no concerns to arrange something or to carve his way.

...During the war, Borya, Shura and I were students of Vessarion Yakovlevich, who was Director at that time, and had a small flat in the Conservatory: when you go to the Great Hall, first of all you come across booking offices, then there are doors, posters all around, then some more doors, and to the left a door to his flat. We would go, knock on the door- or there was some kind of bell. In one room he had something resembling a sofa, as he sometimes stayed overnight. He worked hard, being Director and a professor. It was difficult time - a severe, wartime winter. It was necessary to hassle just to get money, and heating. We entered. A small vestibule, where we hung our coats, and right here there were two grand pianos. All of us grouped around the instruments. We showed our works there, played new music. Vessarion Yakovlevich listened to our works and made comments.


Volik (Revol Samuilovich) Bunin also came there. He had been my very first friend among the composers, from the years of our studies at the college in Merzlyakovsky Lane attached to the Conservatory. We studied composition there with Litinsky. Volik Bunin was a veritable encyclopedia, he was very inquisitive. I played all of the Beethoven sonatas with him: indeed all that could be played then - we played.Revol Bunin
Then Igor Vladimirovich Sposobin took me to see Alexander Fyodorovich Goedicke. Of the composers Volik Bunin and me were with Alexander Fyodorovich at that time. Goedicke remained in Moscow during the war. The Conservatory had not yet returned. All his life he taught organ and chamber ensemble. Many pianists studied with him: Richter, and the students of Goldenweiser.

During the War he played the organ in the Great Hall of the Conservatory; mainly Bach. I really wanted to get to know the real organ music of Bach. "Ritochka, come to me, you will help me pulling out the stops. I lived at that time in the vicinity of the Dynamo Stadium, in a wooden house, near to the Petrovsky Park. Winter - about 6 am, totally dark, because of the War it was necessary to cover all the windows. Military patrols were walking all around, aircraft were circling, and total darkness. I was in valenki (felt boots), wrapped in a shawl, and went on foot to the Great Hall of the Conservatory. In these difficult war years the Conservatory students and I was among them - were sent to a military hospital to render assistance to wounded soldiers. And amidst the horrors and cruelty of war, I had a strong desire to listen to music.

Alexander Fyodorovich was an old man, he had a beard and whiskers. He lived with his wife on the third or second floor - not where the small hall was, but on the other side, where there was a white hall. Alexander Fyodorovich lived there in a flat - in the same place for years untill he died. And so I went to Alexander Fyodorovichs place. He had cats, dogs - he and his wife picked up abandoned pets; they felt sorry for them. And then the bowl of soup on the floor a familiar sight for all his students. Then, on the walls, portraits: "Well, Ritochka, look at this portrait, it's Kolya Medtner, my brother." Nikolai Medtner was his cousin. "And this is Sergei Rachmaninoff, and this is Fyodor Chaliapin. Alexander Fyodorovich had a slight accent; he was a German. When I came home I told my mother: "Mamma, I have been in a museum!" Once I told Alexander Fyodorovich that in my childhood I went with my mother to the Orthodox Church, at Christmas, and with my father I also went to the Lutheran church of St. Peter and Paul - and what a powerful impression the sound of the organ had made upon me. Alexander Fyodorovich replied: "Ritochka, you know it I who was playing ".

When Alexander Fyododrovich left the house the sparrows- there were about twenty of them on the roof- who knew exactly at what time he used to leave to go and play the organ, would fly down from the roof and line up around the door with open beaks. Alexander Fyodorovich would take out of his pocket millet, some bread crumbs and would throw handfuls for the birds. We used to say: "Look! Now Alexander Fyodorovich will feed sparrows". When he played the organ he wore gloves, with cut-out fingers like conductresses(on the trams). That's how he performed Bach. They had a French organ there. And I helped him to pull out the stops. "This is a quintaton, a favorite of Scriabins", he would say. His concerts were a relief during the years of war. Mariya Veniaminovna Yudina sometimes came from Leningrad to give concerts. She played the Beethoven sonatas amongst other works. The concerts of Alexander Fyodorovich and Mariya Veniaminovna were advertised as being in support of the war efforts, with posters announcing: In support of tank columns. The audience sat in coats in the hall, as it was not heated.
And what teachers we had! Neuhaus was one of them, and was worth so valuable! I was lucky to have known Goldenweiser and Feinberg. Oborin was wonderful too, he was a student of Igumnov. Borya Tchaikovsky was a student of Oborin at the time of his graduating from the Conservatory. All of them were followers of the old school, and were outstanding teachers too. Shostakovich, Myaskovsky and Shebalin were masters in composition, and of course they were remarkable teachers too. The music theory department had a very strong teaching staff: for example Lev Abramovich Mazel and Victor Abramovich Zuckerman, and Sposobin was witty, bright and highly gifted. During the War, Henrikh Ilyich Litinsky also was evacuated with the Conservatory. He taught polyphony there. He also invited us to leave, but my mother did not want to leave Moscow in any circumstances. She was sick and father had already been exiled because he was a German. He was sent to Ryazan, and his sister Monica to Karaganda. And Henrikh Gustavovich Neuhaus was put on a nine-month period in Butyrka, as a prisoner. Yes, thats the way it was. Really awful!

When the Conservatory finally started up again after the evacuation, Igor Vladimirovich Sposobin came to find me and Volik, taking us straight into a cold unheated classroom to show our works to Vissarion Yakovlevich, who had already become Director. He took us to his group and so it was that we became his students. The Conservatory gradually filled with students and life became more active again. The German troops had begun to retreat. Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich moved to Moscow and began to enroll students. We were all under the great influence of his genius. Volik, Shurik and Borya went to study with him. Shebalin himself sent them to Dmitri Dmitriyevich: he saw that they were already under Shostakovichs influence. Of course at the same time this was difficult for him, as the best of his talented students would be leaving him. But he was a friend of Dmitri Dmitrievich, and he understood that it was necessary to give his colleague some good students. Shurik knew Shostakovichs music rather well, and could quote and play much of it. Volik later became his assistant at the Leningrad Conservatory.

Dmitri Dmitrievich often came when we studied with Shebalin. We usually came at about 10 am, at which point Shostakovich would knock at the door. I remember him coming to the Great Hall to see Mravinsky and to attend rehearsals of his work. The Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra sometimes arrived in Moscow to perform new compositions, in particular, the Eighth - the great symphony. It was in 1945 or 1946 and the War was over. Vissarion Yakovlevich asked Shostakovich to take us to a rehearsal, although Mravinsky strongly disapproved whenever, during his rehearsals, unauthorized persons were in the hall. He was strict with regard to such things. But in this case Shostakovich brought us himself; and so Shurik, Borya and I piled into the hall with great pleasure. These were hungry, war and post-war years, and my father was still in exile, my aunt too. But these were also the best days of my life - the people around me were wonderful. And what kind of concerts we attended! We listened to chamber ensembles, when the Small Hall of the Conservatory was opened, including a new quartet by Dmitri Dmitriyevich. And the Great Hall of the Conservatory was opened with his new symphony. Those were great events!
It was in 1948. They came from the Central Committee, gathered us in a hall, and tried to teach us a lesson. All of us worried. Shostakovich was slated, Shebalin was also slated, as well as Prokofiev, who did not teach. All this was far-fetched. No formalism was present in their music. And what it happened to writers; to Akhmatova in Leningrad ... It was all invented ... Someone called this resolution not historical, but hysterical. Exams were postponed. Shostakovich left the Conservatory, and he was not present at the state examination. And his students, in particular Borya had been already with Myaskovsky. But it was not possible to force either Shurik or Borya to compose some other kind of music they continued to compose the same type of music they were used to doing. When Shurik and Borya as well as me had new, more consequential compositions we usually rang up Dmitri Dmitriyevich and asked him to receive us at his home, in Mozhaisk Highway, where he lived. We went to see him in his enormous study-room, and we auditioned our woks. At the same time he played his new compositions to us. It was so with Jewish songs, his Preludes and Fugues. His playing was splendid.
When the first performance of Shuriks Violin Concerto was about to take place, Dmitri Dmitriyevich became very interested as he had not heard his new compositions for a long time. As it happened, he had to leave for Leningrad and therefore could not attend the concert; he therefore asked about the time of rehearsal. And so he came and sat alone in an empty hall to listen to this composition. Nelli Shkolnikova was soloist under Kirill Kondrashin in the Tchaikovsky Hall. This was the dress rehearsal the day before the concert, and Nellechka played very well. Kirill Petrovich conducted his orchestra, and Nelia played. What a great concert it was!

Metek Weinberg praised Shuriks music highly. Metek also was an unusual man of rare talent. And he was also very fond of Shostakovich. Dmitri Dmitriyevich was also fond of him.
Metek lived in Warsaw. When Rakhmaninoff came from the USA, he listened to his concerts as a boy. Metek was an amazing pianist. His father was Jewish, and his mother was Polish. And Mieczyslaw seems to be a Polish name, Slavonic. During the war his sister survived, she left at the right time, and his mother and father perished when Warsaw was captured. The fascists murdered them in a gas chamber. Metek was quite young, he was born in 1919. He left Warsaw, captured by fascists, walking through the forest toward the border to the Soviet Union to seek political asylum. In a catholic church nuns fed him with porridge.
Then on his way he saw a border tower with dogs. In the commandant's office they began to question him: "Who are you? - "Weinberg. Mieczyslaw. - "How can you call youself Mieczyslaw? You are a Jew. You will be Moses ". He left a vivid legacy in his music, he was a bright person. His Quintet - this is a unique and rare work. He was an incredibly gifted person. And his fate was very hard on him. Metek was later sent to the Butyrskaya prison but Dmitri Dmitriyevich helped to liberate him.

I remember very well how Shurik was composing a trio in the Composers House for Creative Work in Ivanovo. He lived in the second cottage, then in the sixth. "Come to us - he says Ill play". He began to compose his trio in the second cottage. I came and listened to his playing. And I understood that we were about to hear something special. Especially when he played the bass ostinato here I was simply stunned. He composed quickly, he was in a hurry, and very much envolved. The weather was good, and Zhenya, his wife, tried not to be in the cottage so he could work quietly. She chose the time to play the violin so as not to disturb him. They had a dog Lassie, who, when Zhenya with Shurik played Beethoven sonatas - in one particular place - lifted the head and began to sing!

Once Yuri Isayevich Yankelevich arrived there: Zhenya Chugaeva was his assistant at the Conservatory. I knew him rather well. Yuri Isayevich was one of those teachers of violin, for whom it was nigh impossible to find equal at that time. Many winners of international contests were his students: V. Tretyakov, V. Lantsman, V. Spivakov, N. Shkolnikova , I. Bochkova, V. Ivanov and others.