Swiss Talk

Our dearest friend from USA Todd Harris, who was literary translating all UCM English texts from the very beginning of AG UCM, has translated the interview. Todd says: “as usual I wanted to to get this out to our Western friends in English in a timely fashion”. “SWISS TALK”.

Music fans in Switzerland are looking forward to the opening of concert halls. It is hoped that spring will bring some good news in this regard. In the meantime, it is January outside the window, we contacted the musician-philosopher Andrey Gavrilov to ask him about the mood of the time. After all, music knows more about this than people. World renowned pianist and conductor Andrei Gavrilov has been living in Switzerland for twenty years. In his cozy home near Zurich, a new philosophy of the performing arts is being created.

Contemporary ideas find expression in audio and video albums. The musician also plays at concerts. At the same time, the halls are always overcrowded.


– Not so long ago you returned from Japan. What is the situation with the quarantine?

Andrey Gavrilov: As elsewhere in civilized countries, that is, strict control over the observance of security measures. There are restrictions on the entry of foreigners into the country, a mandatory express test at the border with waiting for the result at the airport, a two-week quarantine for new arrivals. And the routine procedure is distinguished by consciousness, a sense of responsibility and discipline inherent in Japanese culture.

– In which cities did you tour?

A.G .: The calendar turned out to be rich: Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, Nagoya, Fukuoka and other cities. 3-4-day master classes and lectures were held between concerts at universities. The program of solo performances was notable for its complexity: philosophical, artistic, technical. At two concerts in the Japanese southern capital of Fukuoka and the final tour with the audience at the famous Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, I performed Mozart’s Concerto in D minor in a new reading.

– That is, while Europe is in strict quarantine, in the Land of the Rising Sun, music remains with people?

A.G .: Yes, but the situation is different there as a whole. Plus the traditionally high culture of behavior and respect for each other. The attitude to health protection measures is very serious: there is a certain seating order in the halls, all spectators are wearing masks. Meetings with artists in the lobby and in the artistic hall have been canceled. But young people, of course, are the same everywhere. Students waited outside with scores, with shining eyes asking questions about new meanings of works, especially with Liszt. Such a lively response is very pleasant.


– What are your impressions of your collaboration with the conductor and the orchestra?

A.G .: During revolutionary changes in art, and not only in art, people’s reactions are often polar. This is natural for human nature, when the familiar and familiar from childhood turns into a completely new one. Depending on the psychotype at one pole, the response is something like this: “shocking”, “madness”, “eccentricity”. On the other: “catharsis”, “veil from the eyes”, “cleansing”, “here it is, finally.” Of course, it is not easy for both the conductor and the orchestra. I must admit that, to the credit of the conductor and the musicians, after the confusion at the first rehearsal in Fukuoka, the artists pulled themselves together and positively “experienced” the revolutionary changes that shook them with a rather thoroughly shocking novelty of their view of Mozart’s music and music in general. Faced for the first time with a new philosophy, in 24 hours they were able to accept what I had been going for thirty years through painful searches, ups and downs.


– What works did you perform and why?

A.G .: In my recitals I showed Liszt’s sonata in B minor, Prokofiev’s eighth sonata, Chopin’s nocturnes. I devoted the years 2016-2020 to essays that, as my research showed, were completely incomprehensible to humanity. Not only misunderstood, but misinterpreted. And for more than a century and a half, generations of musicians were brought up, dissertations were written, “traditions” and “patterns” were created, based on a false interpretation of these works.

For example, it is “customary” to believe that Liszt created his famous sonata under the influence of Goethe’s “Faust”. Only because Liszt very clearly identified “satanic” intonations in music. Usually, a person’s idea of the “devil” in musical language is expressed quite unambiguously. These are intonations of sarcasm, bilious irony, grotesque, a certain combination of harmonies and dissonances. That is, the image of “Satan” is recognizable and easily read by people. What is it really? Before us is an amazing self-portrait of Liszt himself! The sonata is an expression of his philosophy of life, world outlook, worldview, passions and meanings of life – the confession of the Man, torn by contradictions – “the mad philosopher-romantic”.

And humanity “guessed” only “devilish” intonations. And on the basis of the detail lying on the surface, he “fantasized” the literary and artistic and philosophical content. Whereas the author unfolds in music a personal religious and philosophical drama that breaks his heart. Prokofiev’s Eighth Sonata can be called his “Guernica” in a “socialist version.” The music tells the story of the existential horror and doom of the individual in the hell of the disastrous reality in which the composer lived and worked. In my opinion, Prokofiev managed to convey here the very course of thought, his own “cerebral process”.

This composition, surprisingly deep for Prokofiev, allows the listener to move his consciousness directly into the author’s “skull box”. See time and the world through the eyes of an impassive composer-chronicler. Chopin’s nocturnes demonstrated the new possibilities of the piano in relation to colors and emotional-artistic states. A more detailed story about creative and artistic tasks and discoveries in the compositions performed as part of the Japanese tour requires a detailed, narrowly specialized analysis


– “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Mussorgsky,

“Symphonic Etudes” by Schumann, Liszt’s sonatas are often named among the peaks of piano music. What do these works mean to you personally?

A.G .: I see this as my mission to return to humanity the lost meanings of culture. No more, no less. In the case of Modest Petrovich, it is an unread, misunderstood, “forgotten” root, truly Russian culture. Schumann has an unread, misunderstood, “forgotten” European culture of “fantastic chivalry”, where ideas of the best European philosophers of the heyday of “fantastic romanticism” and European symbolism were developed in music. As for Liszt, the unique phenomenon of the transfer of the living consciousness of a religious philosopher-composer, torn to pieces by the poles of European philosophical, ideological, intellectual and emotional aspirations of the mid-19th century, is returning to the world. In Liszt’s ambivalent consciousness, the incompatible was bizarrely combined – insane sensual romanticism and the asceticism of Catholic fanaticism.


– Is it true that “Pictures” and “Sketches” in the modern reading of Andrei Gavrilov can already be found on the Internet? Please tell us where and how the recording of musical masterpieces took place?

A.G .: That’s right, there is already the first recording option on the net. The final version will be released in a month. It significantly strengthens the artistic and virtuoso parts of the narrative. This is especially true of the “inconceivable tempo” in the furious virtuosity of Schumann and the truly modern psychedelic inherent in Musorgsky’s music.

For myself, the “newest period” of a conscious understanding of music, I count from the end of 2016. All recordings of this period are being made in the First Studio of the Czech National Radio in Prague, in a new building on Vinohrady, with a new instrument and the latest technical capabilities. There is a wonderful group of young producers and sound engineers, it is very pleasant to cooperate with them. We are a close-knit musical family, which is great for helping creative pursuits. Today the Prague studio is the fundamental base of my label “UCM”. All solo projects are being recorded there and will be recorded. Subsequently, perhaps, and orchestral.


– A century and a half ago Franz Liszt dedicated his Mephisto Sonata to Robert Schumann. Just the other day, this piece was performed by you in the Czech Radio studio. And when will Liszt’s newly comprehended creation become available to everyone?

A.G .: After the first recording in October, the material was edited in ten days, I heard the result back in Japan. The recording sounded bright and convincing. It allowed me to see the previously unnoticed and to identify the artistic and philosophical details that need to be improved so that Liszt’s musical confession sounded without distortion. The new performance, as in the case of Schumann’s “Etudes”, is intended to push the usual ideas about the boundaries of the sound palette, understanding the “limits” of human physiological capabilities.

To overcome the “gravity” of the material world, music requires “transcendental” human efforts in relation to speed, sound power, and the creation of grandiose artistic pictures. The image of Christ, the philosophical theme of the Cross and the Crucifixion are key for the sonata. The cosmic pictures of the last word of Jesus on the Cross, the battle of Good and Evil in the picture “Armageddon” that concludes the sonata require the same “cosmic efforts” from the performer. A week ago at the First Studio in Prague, we achieved very serious results. Hopefully, by Easter we will release the second volume of recording music as “Living Consciousness”, which is a new brand and philosophical definition of the musical world that I am currently creating.

– What new spiritual ascents await fans of beautiful music in the future?

A. G .: Earlier, humanity “stumbled” on “inhuman” musical masterpieces – physiologically, psychologically, artistically, mentally. Now they have been comprehended, recorded, presented in the form of video lectures and literary essays. And now a calm, bottomless ocean of Bach’s music awaits us – I intend to devote the remaining time to his clavier work. In between “infinity” I will devote myself to other composers, from Schubert and Chopin to Scriabin and Debussy.

MUSIC FOR PEOPLE – Music has always supported people in difficult times. Does musician Andrei Gavrilov feel the support of fans and friends?

A. G .: “Admirer” is an outdated concept for me, something archaic from the era of “talents and admirers.” Modernity offers us new relationships and vocabulary. In all honesty, if it were not for the staunch army of friends (otherwise I will not name my comrades-in-arms), my discoveries would have remained in a literary and philosophical presentation on paper. Fortunately, they find their material equivalent in high-quality sound recordings, videos, concerts, lectures. We are all as a single organism in the creation of the newest, most interesting, pioneering, where I am just an instrument for the embodiment of ideas that have long been felt by many and asked from space to “sinful earth”. And we are inconceivable without each other in the vocation to which we have completely dedicated ourselves. – Thank you very much for the interview. I wish you good health and every success!

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