1913 Interview with Modest Altschuler

 

 

 

 


1913 Interview with Modest Altschuler

 

"The Music of the People in Russian Masterpieces" from an Interview with Modeste Altschuler Conductor of the "Russian Symphony Orchestra" 1913

 

Rubinstein's Place in Russian Music

 

The position of Rubinstein in the musical art of the Russias is looked upon by Russians as that of the virtuoso and educator rather than that of the composer. However worthy Rubinstein may have been as a composer, the fact that he did not employ Russian material to any extent deprives him of being classed with the great Russian composers. With so much riches at hand he failed ever to pick more than a few pearls from truly Russian soil.

 

However, there can be no question that Russia owes Rubinstein a very great debt for his invaluable service to the cause of music in Russia through his tireless efforts to found worthy musical schools in the country. Although Katherine II in 1796 made an attempt to found a music school in Russia it was a school in name only. In the fifties when Rubinstein returned to his native land with great fame there was no music school in the country worthy of the name. Through an aunt of the Czar he was enabled to get funds to start the St. Petersburg Conservatory, which was opened in 1862. Shortly thereafter the Moscow Conservatory was started under the direction of Nicholas Rubinstein, brother of Anton. Today there are doubtless about one hundred and twenty conservatories in Russian, many of them excellent in the results they are producing.

 

Glinka must be regarded as one of the greatest interpreters of the Russian nationality. None before him have produced Russian music--that is, Russian national music as music, in the same sense as did Glinka. To be truly national, to express the soul of the people, it is necessary to go to the root, to the national life itself. He was at home in the world not only of Slavonic melody, but of Slavonic sentiment and Slavonic history.

 

In "A Life for the Czar" he created a national opera. The music of the opera, "A Life for the Czar" was an immense advance over anything that had preciously been attempted by Russian composers. A great deal of the musical material for the "A Life for the Czar" is actually taken from national resources. In the last act of the "A Life of the Czar", Glinka has concentrated the ardent patriotism and the intense human sympathy, which is common to the whole school of which hi is a founder--a school which was to include Rimsky-Korsakoff, Glasunow, Balakirev, Mussorgdky, Dargomyzhske, Borodin, Tchaikowsky, Rachmaninoff, Wasilenko, Gretchaninow, Scriabin, Azensky, Liadow, Ibynsky, Ippolitow-Ivanow, Spendiarow, Taneiew, Tscherepnin, and others.

 

Tchaikowsky's musicianship and innately musical temperament combined with the free use of Russian folk some material have given his compositions a distinctiveness which inspires and enthralls as well as charms and delights. However, without reflecting in the least upon Tchaikowsky's genius, I think that American people owe it to themselves in all justice to become better acquainted with many of the truly masterly works of the other Russian masters.

 

The Widening Appreciation of Russian Music

 

The vastly increased appreciation of Russian music was inevitable. The treasures existed and the world was sure to find them out sooner or later. The advance has been much greater since Tchaikovsky, because the real mines of genuine Russian melody and harmony have been opened since then. Glinka, while nationally Russian, has been obscured by the more recent men who have been for the most part men of the people. Practically all of them have come from small towns and small cities, and have been compelled to work for their success and have been obliged to get in touch with the every day people to do it. Glinka, it will be remembered, had every advantage. He was favored by the kind of fortune that weakens rather than fortifies. His father, for instance, had a whole orchestra of serfs which was placed at the boy's command whenever he wanted to hear them play.

 

Alexander Scriabin

Alexander Scriabin

 

The child in Russia is brought up with music all around him. His nurse has a special song with which to awaken him and another special song to lull him to sleep. There is a special song to call you to dinner--if you are not a very hungry boy and get to the table before the nurse performs her vocal dinner bell. If you are sick your mother sings you a song, part prayer, part superstition, part lullaby, which may do you far more good than the doctor's drugs. There is a song for nearly every disease. For instance, if you had the measles your mother or your nurse would sing.

 

While in Russia four years ago, I had many occasions to speak to Ippolitov-Ivanov regarding folk-songs in Russia, and he called my attention to a Berceuse, the theme of which is used by the Caucasian women as a lullaby for the children affected with the measles. Tschaikovsky has used the first four measures of the same theme in the Arabian Dance, from his Casse Noisette suite, while Ippolitov has developed it to a greater extent in his lovely piano piece. After all it is a folk-song melody, so every composer is entitled to the use of it.

 

Foremost Russian Orchestral Masterpieces

 

The following is a very comprehensive list of the best known Russian works for orchestra. Many of these are based in part upon the fold songs of the people. By far the greater majority have had their first presentation in America through the Russian Symphony Orchestra, assisted by many other artists, and in some cases the composers themselves. They represented the compositions most in demand by those who love Russian music. Unfortunately, only a comparatively few are available to the student through piano arrangements. Some are not published for piano, and others are suitable solely for the orchestra. However, the list itself is worth of preservation, if only as a catalogue of the foremost Russian orchestral masterpieces.

 

Affanasieff, Intermezzo Ruse, from his string quartet, adapted for string orchestra by Modest Altshuler. Arensky, Symphony No 1, Suites 2 and 3. Variations on the Tschaikowsky them Christ when a child a garden made and many roses planted there. Violin Concerto. Balakirev, Islamey, Oriental Fantasie for Piano; Thamara, Symphonic Poem. Borodin, Excerpts from Prince Igor; Overture Dances, Baritone Arla O, Give Me Freedom. bubeck, Polonaise. Chopin, Grand Polish Fantasie, acc. orchestrated by Safonoff. conus, Suite, Child's Life. Cui, valse. Dargomijkey, Kazatchok, Russian Dance; Petite Romance, from the Rustic Suite. Glazounov, Symphonies No. 3 and 8; Symphonic Poem Stenka Razin; Suite, Middle Ages; Spring, Musical Tableau; Scene de Ballet, Suite; Prelude, Raymonda; First Tableau from the Ballet The Seasons, "Winter;" Scene dansante; Violin concerto; Andante funebre arr; Ay Ouchnem, Russian Folksong of the Bargemen.

 

Gliere, Symphony E-flat. Glinka, Overture, Life for the Czar; Overture, Russian and Ludmilla; Kamarinskaya, Fantasie. Ilyinski, Suite, Nur and Anitra; Symphonic Fragment, Psyche. Ippolitov-Ivanov Caucasian Sketches, Suites No. 1 and 2 (Iveria); Armenian Rhapsodie; Intermezzo russe for strings adapted from the string quartet by Modest Altschuler. Jaernfelt, Symphonic Poem, Korsholm; Berceuse. Kajanus, Rhapsodie No. 1. Kallinikov, Symphony No. 1 Liadov, Musical Tableau, Baby Uaga; Kikimora, Legend; Eight Russian Folk Songs; Symphonic Sketch, Enchanted Lake. Liapounov, Piano concerto introduced by Julius Isserliss; Oukraine Rhapsodie, Moussorgkdy, Introduction to Act 1 from the opera Khovanstschina; Introduction and Hopak from the opera Sorotschinskaya Yarmarka; Persian Dances. Turkish March; Musical Tableaux (humoresque); Fantasie, Night on the Bald Mount.

 

Napravnik, Intermezzo, Night; from the opera Dubrovsky; Russian Dance adapted for string orchestra from the string quartet by Modest Altschuler. Rachmaninov, Bohemian Capriccio; Fantasie, Cliff; Isle of Death, Tone Poem, introduced and conducted by the composer; Symphony No 2; 2d Piano Concerto; Suite for 2 Pianos; Tears. Rubinstein, Russkaya and Trepak; Fantasie for Piano; Fifth Piano Concerto; D-minor Piano concerto; russian Dance; Don Quixote, Fantasie, Arias from Demon, and the Ballet Music Lezghinka. Scriabin, Symphonies Nos I, III and IV; Piano concertos introduced by the composer. Serov, Dance of the Cosacs, Stravinsky, Fantasie, Fireworks.

 

Taneiev, First Symphony; Overture and Entr'accce to Oristee. Rimsky-Korsakov, Sadko, Tableau; Symphony, Antar; Symphonic Suite, Scheheresada; Cappriccio Espangnol; Suite, Tsar Saltan; Introduction and Procession from the Golden Cockerel; Twig, Russian folk-song; Christmas Eve, Suite; Mlada, Act III; Snow White, Suite; Overture, May Night.

 

Tchaikowsky, Symphonies Nos. I, III, Iv, V, VI, Manfred; and Violin Concerto. Pinao Concerto in G, March Star; Overture, "1812"; Excerpts from Mazeppa, Battle of Poltava, and Dance; Excertps from Pique Dame; Eugene Onegin, Act I; Fantasie, romeo and Juliet; Fantasie, Tempest; Autumn; Nutcracker Suite; Waltz, Sleeping Beauty; Waltz, Snow Flakes, with chorus; Aria, Jolantha; Theme and Variations, Roccoco; Andante Cantabile, from the first string quartet; Andante, from the string sextet; Vocal Quartet, Night. Vasilenko, Garden of Death, Tone Poem. Zolotarev, Hebrew Rhapsodie.

 

It should be very interesting for Americans who are studying with the hope of becoming composers to review the astonishing progress of the Russias in seventy-five years. Glinka was born in 1804, and did not commence to write as a real master until about 1834. Prior to that time Russia imported its music from other lands, but neglected the riches at its own threshold. The succeeding masters made themselves familiar with the music of other lands, but did not lose sight of their Russian heritage. In less than a century the land of his Imperial Majesty the Czar has emerged from musical obscurity to foremost rank among the musical nations of the world.

 

America may have no century-old mine of fold-melody of its own, but are not the fold melodies of all the world the common possession of the nation which has held its arms so wide open to the liberty-loving people of all lands? Perhaps in the melting pot there may come a new art that shall be even closer in touch with the heartbeats of mankind. The compositions of MacDowell and others have shown us that this prophecy is very likely to be realized.

 

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