Alexander Klevitsky, CEO at Russian Musical Union (RMU): “My own composing work helps me understand the intent of other authors”

In the framework of the XXXIX International Festival of Contemporary Music “Moscow Autumn”, which is supported by the Russian Musical Union, on November 11, 2017, a concert of songs and instrumental music was held in the crowded hall of the House of Composers with the participation of the Academic Bolshoy Concert Orchestra named after Y.V. Silantiev. InterMedia agency published an interview with Alexander Klevitsky, Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the orchestra, hosted by Tatyana Zhurbinskaya.

T.Z. The Academic Bolshoy Concert Orchestra named after Yury Silantiev always participates in the “Moscow Autumn” Festival. Mr. Klevitsky, what is your mood this year?

A.K. Great mood, how can you forget that for the first time as an Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the orchestra, I performed here?

T.Z. At that time, you already felt confident at the conductor’s stand, although the profession of a conductor is a long one. In order to achieve mastery, a certain period of maturation is required not only professional, but also human, which you have already shown even at your first concerts.

A.K. Actually, this was not the first concert. Sometimes I look at a photo on which I’m a small boy dressed in a suit with a beautiful silk bow, and I hear a whisper around me: “the child has a great musical future.” It’s a joke, of course, nevertheless, I mastered the piano very early and could play everything that was popular at those times, and that was the heyday of Soviet songs. Perhaps, that’s why in my repertoire now there are so many works of our classic songwriters, and the anniversary concert included songs of Feltsman, Dolukhanyan, Aedonitsky. Legendary people. What a blessing that I had the honor of being acquainted with Evgeny Krylatov! The white-haired, recognized 80-year-old master remains as direct in the art as before. I had a great pleasure to perform in the concert his song “The riddle of a woman” (soloist – Tatyana Vetrova)!

T.Z. The real sensation was the performance of the Suite by Alexander Tsfasman…

A.K. That’s true, the performance of the soloist, a student of the State Musical College of Pop-Jazz Art Alexander Vyazov, was a triumph. The virtuosity of the piano playing, combined with the inner musicality, made the sound of famous Tsfasman’s plays unique. I even had to pause the program because of the audience endless applause.

T.Z. The program of the orchestra is a diverse range of styles. What helps you in the ability to switch flexibly while reading the most diverse scores?

A.K. My experience of working on television multiplied that skill. When the pop contests “Step to Parnassus” and “Stairway to Heaven” were held, I created a real orchestra, and I recruited each person from a large number of applicants. These first-class musicians accompanied the performance of singers at the contests, and since the public liked the orchestra, they began to invite us to give independent performances. My benefit concert in 2004 at Russia Concert Hall, that one real, prayerful, I also held with the orchestra.

T.Z. When planning a performance at “Moscow Autumn” Festival at the House of Composers, how do you compose the program?

A.K. I follow the principle of the festival – to perform the premieres of new compositions. Alexander Pokidchenko, a well-known musician who has traveled around half the world with concerts, has performed with us on TV in the “Romantics of a Romance” program more than once, soloed as a pianist. This time he presented a song to the famous poems by Nikolai Zabolotsky “In This Birch Grove”, performing it dramatically with great intensity.

Dmitry Zharov, who was my friend for many years, recently passed away. We perform his pathetic, wide-breathing “Love Song”. The young singer Ilya Ushullu sings about the most beautiful human feeling. Maybe he thought of himself while singing, that’s why everything was perceived so naturally. A creative match always gives a good result.

The music and the manner of performance of Raisa Saed-Shah are full of virgin nature, or perhaps, high temperament. Serious excellent poetry by Anna Saed-Shah and Anna Akhmatova deepens the mood. The quartet of slender pretty backing vocalists, Raisa Saed Shah’s class students of The Gnesins Russian Academy of Music, touched everyone in the audience.

T.Z. The conductor danced – it is impossible to resist, I can understand him. You conduct your concerts yourself and speak with enthusiasm. For example, you spoke about Eduard Artemyev.

A.K. For this concert I chose the instrumental fragment “Surprise at the ball”, as well as the song “Where are you, my dream” (soloist Victoria Dmitrieva-Goldstein). And in general, recently I have been playing many works of our famous composer, who turns 80 this year.

When the idea came up to play the music of Eduard Artemyev from the films of Nikita Mikhalkov in a concert, I had certain doubts. The music in a film in the tangle with the visuals and the plot is one thing, and the same music, performed separately – is a completely different story. I read, pondered, and came to the conclusion that the music speaks quite independently – clearly, lucidly, with a great impact.

T.Z. As far as I know, you first met Eduard Artemyev long time ago.

A.K. Yes, at present there exists the Association of Electronic and Acoustic Music, a branched, including many composers and performers, and recognized worldwide. Eduard Artemyev is the President of the Association.

It all started in the late 80s, when electronic instruments already existed with might and main, music was created for them, electronics were used in film recordings, I proposed to establish the Electronic Music Association in the USSR Composers Union. Artemyev picked up my ideas, so it’s not surprising that I am attracted to the personality of this musician by his ability to feel the most current trends and demands of the time.

T.Z. By the way, do you have electronic instruments in your orchestra?

A.K. Of course, they are a certain color accent, and I like to mix acoustics and electronics, creating new unexpected effects.

T.Z. In the concerts of “Moscow Autumn” there are always interesting soloists. Do you like singers?

A.K. To begin with, the best Russian singers performed with the orchestra. I enjoyed singing of Ivan Kozlovsky, Irina Arkhipova, and Claudia Shulzhenko, whose performances gave rise to so many emotions! I happened to work with many of our stars – Joseph Kobzon, Lev Leshchenko, and other.

I was worried a lot as an author at the premiere of my song “How It Was A Long Time”. We started working with Andrey Solod long time ago, when my first musicals were staged; I highly appreciate this unique pop singer. And I recently heard Maria Zagray, a student of The Gnesins Russian Academy of Music; she seemed so promising to me that I trusted her to do a duet with Andrey to sing the premiere of my song, and I was not mistaken.

T.Z. Celebrating anniversaries is the tradition of “Moscow Autumn”: Evgeni Doga celebrates his 80th anniversary. Recently I was going in the subway – and there was a young violinist playing a melody from the movie “My Tender and Gentle Beast”.

A.K. I have no doubt that he does not know the author of this music: there is just a melody for him. We honor the great composer, we play the waltz, the popularity of which has long gone beyond the borders of our country.

T.Z. The concert is the tip of the iceberg. How is the preparation for the concerts going? Rehearsals?

A.K. I do not like to reveal my kitchen, you’d better listen to the result.

T.Z. Well … Are there any special techniques, secrets of the profession of a conductor?

A.K. Actually, I studied a huge number of scores, listened to the world and local classical music, modern music in the interpretations of various conductors. I “try on” the scores to my musicians, I trust them, and they can do it. I am attracted by diversity. For example, at the contests of young vocalists named after Muslim Magomayev I conduct Mozart, Wagner, and Tchaikovsky. I play together with rock musicians.

T.Z. Your songs and instrumental plays sounded in the concert. Do you use your official position?

A.K. On the one hand, this is a world practice: composers play their own music. The difference is that Sergei Rachmaninov for example had a piano, and I have an orchestra. On the other hand, when I came to the Silantyev Orchestra, I had long been a professionally established composer.

T.Z. Oh, yes, the whole country sang your “Lilies”, musicals were staged in many theaters, and my grandson with great interest watches “Yeralash” [a Russian children’s comedy TV show] episodes of with your music. When the director of Yeralash TV show Boris Grachevsky appeared on the stage of the House of Composers, the audience bloomed with smiles. Some time ago, the invitation of popular people became a tradition of “Yeralash”, now the director himself is a media person who is loved and warmly greeted. The audience already knows that Grachevsky will sing with the orchestra, because it happened more than once. But this time he limited himself to greeting his dear friend.

A.K. I didn’t count how many episodes we did together, although Boris Grachevsky and I both have matured during the work on “Yeralash”, and even became almost relatives. However, this is only a small part of our creative work. Not so long ago, a feature film was released. Its title is “The Roof”, it’s a story of the life of school students.

T.Z. You received the award “For the best soundtrack” for the music to this touching story.

A.K. I’ll clarify that my own composing work helps me understand the intent of other authors, as if I’m bumping into other persons’ thinking, I begin to understand it more fully and convey it more adequately.

T.Z. I open the booklet of The “Moscow Autumn” Festival, where each concert has its own page. I see Alexander Klevitsky not only on the concert page of the orchestra, but also on the first pages of the booklet, where he welcomes the Festival as the CEO of the Russian Musical Union.

A.K. The Russian Musical Union was created not so long ago, but is already recognized, as it has united many musical organizations of the capital and regions of the country: philharmonic societies, conservatories, and creative unions. Russian Musical Union (RMU) became a member of the UNESCO International Musical Council, in which our country was previously represented by the USSR Composers Union. Moreover, we are included in this Council among the 45 countries that not only represent but also make decisions. The main goal of the Russian Musical Union is to help music in general. How can one not notice and support the “Moscow Autumn” Festival? About 40 concerts – symphonic, chamber, choral, wind, electronic, jazz, the participation of the best bands and soloists – such a scale!