Alexander Klevitsky, Head of RMU: “The mission of our Award is development and support of Russian academic music throughout its existence”

At the end of October, Moscow hosted the first ceremony of awarding the laureates of the International Award for Best Audio Recording of Russian Academic Music entitled “Pure Sound” established by Russian Musical Union. The winners were determined in eight categories – from opera to the publication of archival audio recordings. Alexander Klevitsky, General Director of the Russian Musical Union, in an interview with “Cultural Mania”, revealed interesting facts about the new award to support the national music industry.

– How did you come up with the idea of “Pure Sound” Award?

– The idea came about three years ago. We paid attention to the fact that in Russia there are many awards in the field of popular music, but in classical music there are few, and we decided to combine two components: performing skills in the academic genre and sound recording. As a result, we came up with “Pure Sound” Award. In 2018, we announced its establishment, and on October 23, 2019, the 1st Award Ceremony was held.

– What is unique about the “Pure Sound” Award?

– The fact that there has not yet been such an award, intended for performers and sound engineers in the academic genre, and dedicated specifically to Russian music.

– The award stipulates that performers whose works have been created over the past two years can claim the award, and the ceremony itself is held once every two years.

– Our goal is to investigate what is happening in the field of sound recording of domestic classical music, what had been recorded and published recently. That’s why we decided that the Award will take place once every two years. I think that such frequency will increase the prestige of the Award. We hope that during this time new works will be recorded, and the participants will pay attention not only to the virtuoso performance, but also to high-quality sound recording.

– On the experience of what awards did you rely on when creating “Pure Sound”?

– You see, all contests are built on the same principle. Jury members are invited, contestants are determined, judges select the best of them. Of course, our award is similar to Grammy. But Grammy is awarded in all areas of music. We are limited to eight nominations exclusively in the academic genre.

– Over 150 works took part in the audition, how would you rate their level?

– We approached the selection of works very carefully. And, of course, had no influence on the work of the jury at all. Unfortunately, the performance and sound recording of some tracks left much to be desired. For example, we came across some records made at home. Right after the competition was announces there were few works submitted, which fact upset us, but in the end we received many sound recordings. The jury took a long time to listen to them.

– Still, what do you think of the level of works?

– A very decent level, just listen to the works that have received awards.

– Were there foreign participants in the competition?

– This year there were few foreign contestants. Any event must be promoted, earn fame. “Pure Sound” is no exception. This time there were works from neighboring countries. But the winners were mainly Russian.

– How did the name of the award appear?

– Maybe it is immodest, but I came up with the name “Pure Sound”. There were other variants, but the word “purity” itself was very beautiful and suitable for a music award. We have chosen this name.

– What are the criteria for evaluating the presented works?

– The works were evaluated by the content of the audio recording, by the level of performance and interpretation, and by the technical quality of the sound record. I can say that it was not easy for the jury. The complexity of evaluation is that the music can be played very well, but the flaws can be in the recordings – disproportionately loud drums, bulging “copper”, insufficient “wood”, microphone installed incorrectly. And what to do? The soul of a musician seeks to appreciate the excellent performance, but from the point of view of sound engineering, obvious errors were made. Unfortunately, there were quite a few such works where technical flaws were present.

– Maybe it’s the fault of the sound engineers. Is the sound engineering school strong in Russia?

– Yes, in Russia there is a strong school of sound recording of academic music. This education is given at the Conservatory, and at Gnesins Russian Academy of Music. Sound engineering is given a lot of attention. For example, in the philharmonic society, where the amazing Pavel Lavrenenko works, one of the best sound engineers, a member of the jury, or at Tchaikovsky Conservatory, where Maria Soboleva teaches, – also an amazing professional and a member of the jury. Our sound engineers can record music at a very good level.

– At the Award Ceremony, composer Alexei Rybnikov touched on such a topic as transferring recording studios to various organizations in conditions of extreme shortage of such venues. Is this really a sore point for the industry?

– Yes, he did talk about this problem, he also mentioned the eviction of the State House of Broadcasting and Sound Recording from the building on Malaya Nikitskaya Street, he also recalled the transfer of the Melody company premises to the Anglican Church. In the Recording House on Malaya Nikitskaya there were a number of studios, for example, almost the entire collection of Soviet music was recorded in the 5th Studio, all the best recordings were made there, since the reference conditions were created in these studios. For us – musicians of the older and middle generation – what is happening is very painful. We lost two places where 99% of the best music was recorded.

– Returning to a more pleasant topic, was it easy to gather the stars for a gala concert at the Award Ceremony?

– Trust me, it is very difficult to gather performers of such high level. They are all overloaded: they have concerts, performances. For example, Yuri Bashmet, who spoke at the Award Ceremony, right after it went to Chelyabinsk.

– How will the Award develop further? Maybe you plan to improve something?

– We had to take some knocks, but we got the experience, which we will consider in future. We have a very poor situation with the venues for events. We are very grateful to the Novaya Opera Theater and its director Dmitry Sibirtsev for letting us in, and his warm welcome of the Award. I believe that the media could pay more attention to the “Pure Sound” Award. After all, recordings of real music, not plastic consumer stuff, which sounds everywhere, were awarded, and all musical elite of the country gathered for the ceremony. It was very nice.

 REFERENCE: The International Award “Pure Sound” is the first ever award for the best audio recording of Russian classical music. Established by Russian Musical Union in 2018. Awarded once every two years in eight categories: opera, choral works, chamber vocal music, symphonic music, concert for solo instrument and orchestra, chamber instrumental music (ensemble), chamber instrumental music (solo), release of archival audio recordings.