The annual festival of chamber music “Vozvraschenie” after last year’s break returned to its place: at the end of the New Year holidays in the Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, textbook masterpieces and rarities of the world chamber repertoire were again performed by world-class musicians. Tells Yulia Bederova.
The Return festival, which began as a project of young musicians, has long and firmly stuck the designation “almost the best chamber music festival in Russia.” But repertory freedom without accidents, an informal spirit without slovenliness, stylistic scope without variegation, and the participation of the best chamber musicians and soloists of Moscow and foreign residence make it, in fact, just the only real chamber music festival of such a level and quality in our area, while maintaining full independence: funds for the organization of programs are raised through crowdfunding. A harmonious cycle of four plot-constructed concerts, free from conventions and restrictions in terms of compositions and styles, is unlike anything not only in Russian, but also in European festival architecture.
This year, about fifty works in the range from the 13th to the 21st century, written for a variety of instruments and combinations (from the hurdy-gurdy to the solo clarinet, from the harp to electronics), were divided into four thematic blocks. In addition to the traditional “Concert by request” (not by the audience, but by the performers themselves), the plots of the year were one seemingly humorous, one seemingly philosophical, and one more, at first glance, about love. But in each of the three programs with the corresponding names – “Share of Joke”, “Dumy” and “First Love” – it was clearer than ever that it was not a matter of plots at all. Here, the music deceptively follows the given narrative, but does not illustrate it, sometimes it simply does not obey, and even more so, it never builds it literally. In “Share of Joke” – a concert collection of legal and unofficial humoresques (from Monteverdi to Hindemith, Schoenberg, Zemlinsky and the amazing suite “Puppets” by Alfredo Casella for a chamber ensemble) – skyscrapers of real seriousness suddenly grew on the stage as if from underground and disappeared, as if mirage. In “Duma” – a wreath of composer’s reflections, dialogues and reasoning – it is easy to guess that most of all it was about feeling: about the innermost, as in Leonid Desyatnikov’s “Morning Reflection on the Majesty of God” to the text of Lomonosov (a refined choral rainbow of emotions and timbres in performed by the ensemble “Intrada”); about frank, as in Gubaidulina’s brilliantly performed “Reflections on the Bach Chorale”; about the almost artless, as in the poetic trio “Dumki” by Dvorak, or about the seemingly complex, as in “Reflections on the Dowland Song” by Britten for viola and piano with Ksenia Bashmet and Andrey Usov.
Not surprisingly, the “First Love” in this series came to listeners with zero degrees of sentimentality. The start of the program – three pieces by Prokofiev from the suite “Romeo and Juliet” for piano (Yakov Katsnelson) sounded with almost crushing grace, steely drama and an amazing feeling of a huge sound universe imprisoned in the piano, when you forget about the orchestral nature of this music and everything in general . There were many continuations of the theme – the porcelain fusion of European classicism with estate romanticism in Glinka’s Variations on a Theme of Mozart for harp (Tatiana Oskolkova), the cunning songs of Grieg and Debussy with Yulia Korpacheva, the marvelous music for one piano six hands by Rachmaninov (Ekaterina Apekisheva, Katsnelson and Aleksey Kurbatov), the inventively gentle modernist style of the Erich Korngold Quintet, molded by the hands of Apekisheva, Ailen Pritchin, Daniil Kogan, Sergei Poltavsky, Boris Andrianov, the iridescent piano Zdenka Variations by Janáček (Kurbatov), Messiaen’s Theme and Variations for Violin and Piano with his hot obsession with the icy purity of sound and form (Roman Mints, Katsnelson) and, finally, the First String Sextet of Brahms (Mints, Ksenia Dubrovskaya, Andrey Usov, Pavel Romanenko, Boris Andrianov, Evgeny Tonkha), which no longer tells about Brahms’s love for Clara Wieck, but about the play of density and incorporeality, stopped and impetuous time, intertwining pauses and phrases. But all this did not speak of earthly love (although the stories, cases, reasons for compositions are accurately and reverently described in the booklet), but of a feeling and taste for chamber performance.
This time, due to pandemic difficulties, several regular participants and even one artistic director were unable to perform at the festival, but when performer A is announced in the booklet, performer B is indicated in the program, and performer C plays on stage, while all three are brilliant musicians , soloists and ensemble players, the festival’s obsession with chamber music with its unpredictability built into the genre is evident at a glance. The ghostly and unconditional joys of ensemble interaction were discussed, in addition to the program about love, in the last concert, now without any plot guidelines. The traditional finale – a piece performed by all (or almost all) participants of the festival – was the composition of Gavin Bryers “Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet”. In the sound of, perhaps, the most piercing waltz of the 20th century, which, it seems, has never been performed in Moscow (although many planned), everything came together: a joke, and love, and reflections, and an improvisational spirit, and almost subtle calculation, and tact, and ensemble freedom is the real central plot of the festival and its rare dignity.