Vera Gornostaeva | Vol IX | Rachmaninoff Concerto 2 / 12 Preludes
PIANO CONCERTO NO. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, Conductor – Veronika Dudarova
1. Moderato [11:18]
2. Adagio Sostenuto [11:45]
3. Allegro Scherzando [12:50]
4. C Sharp Minor, Op. 3, No. 2: Lento [3:45]
5. F Sharp Minor, Op. 23, No. 1: Largo [3:04]
6. D Minor, Op. 23, No. 3: Tempo di minuetto [3:03]
7. D Major, Op. 23, No. 4: Andante cantabile [4:36]
8. G Minor, Op. 23, No. 5: Alla marcia [3:52]
9. E Flat Major, Op. 23, No. 6: Andante [2:55]
10. C Minor, Op. 23, No. 7: Allegro [2:16]
11. G Flat Major, Op. 23, No. 10: Largo [3:36]
12. E Major, Op. 32, No. 3: Allegro vivace [2:34]
13. B Minor, Op. 32, No. 10: Lento [5:03]
14. G Sharp Minor, Op. 32, No. 12: Allegro [2:27]
15. A Minor, Op. 32, No. 8: Vivo [1:58]
Total Time: 75:04
Vera Gornostaeva (October 1st, 1929 – January 19th, 2015)
There are many legendary and celebrated pianists that emerged from 20th Century Russia: Rachmaninoff, Sofronitsky, Horowitz, Richter, Gilels, Yudina, Pletnev – just to name a few. Gornostaeva’s name certainly belongs on that list.
Upon graduating from the Moscow State Conservatoire, where she studied with the great Heinrich Neuhaus, Vera Gornostaeva immediately launched her career as an avid performer, pedagogue and an author. In 1958 she accepted a teaching position at the Moscow State Conservatoire, in 1969 was given professorship and in 1966 she earned the title of “Honored Artist of the Russian Federation.”
Starting in the mid-50s, Gornostaeva traveled extensively throughout the Soviet Union, with up to a hundred concerts a year. Her performances were always sold out; halls overflowing with fans trying to hear their favorite pianist. Critics described her playing as “Stupendous,” “Unique,” “A True Artist” and “Simply Outstanding.” Reviewers stated: “Gornostaeva is a natural! She has an envious control of the instrument.” “Recitals, given by Gornostaeva, are never flashy. Her playing is neither mannered nor false. She communicates the true essence of music that she delivers in the most profound way. Whether it is works by Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Schumann, Prokofiev or Shostakovich – there is always a great sense of knowledge, intellect and inescapable passion.”
Vera Gornostaeva’s career was constricted due to her political and religious beliefs, as well as not being in sync with the Soviet regime. Therefore, she was one of the many who was “blacklisted.” The invitations from the West kept pouring in, but the permission to leave was never granted. For over twenty years Gornostaeva was officially deemed politically unreliable. When the iron curtain fell, Ms. Gornostaeva was “set free” and the inevitable happened. The world embraced her with open arms. Her lectures and master classes were triumphant. She immediately accepted invitations from Italy, Germany, Switzerland, England and USA.
Ms. Gornostaeva continued a very active life as a teacher, propelling the arts and musical education in Russia, and often found herself chairman of the jury and an adjudicator at many prestigious international music competitions. She passed away in Moscow, Russia.
Veronika Dudarova (December 5, 1916 – January 15, 2009) was Russia’s first woman to succeed as conductor of symphony orchestras in the 20th century. She was born and received her initial musical training in Baku, however; her obvious talents took her to the Leningrad Conservatoire, where she studied the piano. Drawn towards conducting, an activity not then regarded as the domain of women, she then studied at the Moscow Conservatoire, under Leo Ginzburg and Nikolai Anosov, graduating in 1947.
She immediately became associate conductor of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra and and, although she encountered a degree of male opposition, her talents in a wide repertoire covering all styles and periods soon swept aside any reservations. In 1960, Ms. Dudarova took over as principal conductor and led the orchestra until 1989. After the fall of Communism she established the Symphony Orchestra of Russia, with which she remained until the end of her life.
“Rachmaninoff’s regal music – regal because it immediately makes you classify it in a special category. It filled my heart with something that is impossible to express with words. I remember how, without any special need to do that, I was learning his prelude in C Sharp Minor Op. 3 No. 2.
The whole world entered my life with this prelude. A new composer – unthinkable for my consciousness. This sensation of some chest-based, deep voice, low registers, regal scale at which Rachmaninoffís music has to be performed. I understood all the power – an incredibly powerful voice – I understood all the tragedy of this music. This music forebodes. The prelude is written in 1892; it is not yet the 20th Century – but, of course, it is already the 20th Century.
Together with Rachmaninoff, another indelible memory entered my childhood – this time, directly connected to the war. Torn away from Moscow, we were evacuated and lived in the cozy, charming Penza, the second city of my childhood after Moscow. And that is where I heard the news of Sergei Rachmaninoffís death. I perceived it then as my personal loss. It’s incredible, but I absolutely understood, with my childlike subconscious mind, that a genius passed away. And I cried that day, cried incredibly hard, as if I was experiencing some deep personal grief. And at night, when everyone at the dormitory was already asleep, I, was not far from the earphones (in the dormitory, there was a radio and a pair of earphones, my bed was near the earphones) and I heard, as I was not yet sleeping, some mysterious sounds, sounds that were unknown to me, I did not know what it was. (It was the opening of his Second Concerto)
I, of course, was not capable of staying in bed – I jumped up, grabbed the earphones and started listening. Not knowing at the time what music this was, I already figured out that it was Rachmaninoff’s music. I already put it together – yes, yes, they are broadcasting Rachmaninoff, today is the day of his death. Moreover, I already calculated that this, of course, was a concerto with an orchestra, even though I did not know it. It was Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto with an orchestra. And just to think – how closely, indeed, music is tied in our lives to the moment when we first heard it. I am not sure that I would still perceive this music today, at this point, in the same exact way – had I not heard it at such a moment.
Just imagine: it was the time of the Great Patriotic War, a sacred war, and we – the children – were a part of the general body of the country, we understood everything that was going on, both consciously and subconsciously – from the faces of the adults, from the environment, from everything around us – this entered our lives. Everywhere – on every corner – there hung a poster, which I also remembered: a bareheaded woman with a typical Russian face, maybe a peasant, wearing a shawl, and a caption: “Motherland calls.” And this poster, too, entered our consciousness together with this music, it was all tied together. I understood that this music was about Russia. I understood that it was some sort of a bell, a tocsin, a gathering that called for all of the people. All of this I could not express in words, but understood it in these sounds, which start with a pianissimo. It is this gigantic wave that spreads like an element, it is rampant, bleeding Russia trying to save itself.”
Excerpt from TV Show “Open Piano”, hosted by Ms. Gornostaeva in 1987.
Translated by Sergey Gordeev.
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