“The midnight wind blows carrying fleeting leaves away,
and they are torn asunder … and so it is that in a blink of time, without prompting, independent of externalities, life extracts from our souls it’s greatest creative impulses – sighs, half-thoughts, half-feelings …Simply, “the soul exists” … that is, it “lives”, it “dies” … For a long time, for some reason, I was attracted to these “unintentional exclamations”. Actually, they flow into us continuously, but we do not take the time to record them (there is no paper at hand), to take them in – and so they die. Then they are forgotten and erased from our memory. However, I managed to save some of them, and put them on paper. I Recorded everything I could sense and gather. And so these became the fleeting leaves I managed to collect, and decided to keep”.
I Always remember, and I never forget.
At 18, when most young men relish the freedom of blowing leaves, I became the youngest person ever to win the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition. Overnight I became famous, and within a short period I had a contract with Deutsche Grammaphon and recorded scores of albums, and performed a wide range of masterworks from Bach to Stravinsky with the world’s greatest orchestras under the batons of the world’s greatest conductors. But with the fame came both fortune and intense responsibilities. Suddenly the leaves were blowing past me. I found myself entangled in the politics of art, and overwhelmed by the flurry of paper which made music seem increasingly more business than my art. But my art was my soul, and I wanted no one but myself to own it. As I grew older, I came to realize that fame and fortune and fancy cars were not making me happy. I was searching for the something more in the wind, the leaves, that I was missing, and I knew I had to get back to the art of music making, and away from making music simply to make money, or to make others happy. And so I left behind a spectacularly successful career to find myself, to find true happiness through self-discovery.
It took many years to fully realize and understand that making or receiving Serious music is far more than a progenitor of “pleasure”, a reason for “relaxation,” or even a delicatessen of “delight”; it surpasses even the delicacy, flair, sensitivity and passion inspired by the performer, the heartbeat of a demanding score; beyond even the thrill, the sheer “aesthetic pleasure” one feels when in the aural or physical presence of skilled, delightful musicians giving the performance of their lives. Not even rapture includes the whole reason to listen. No, no and NO! A great concerto, a great symphony, a great Serious musical work – such music goes beyond the notes and provides a window on your “self” and your world; a glimpse of your own soul, a peering into your own existence, an insight about the world-at-large and your breath within it. Music is the emancipation of consciousness, leading to potentially limitless inner growth, and even self-improvement. Musical masterworks “move us forward” – they are “hints and guides”, “teaching moments”, they “open doors” to eternity and other dimensions. These musical journeys are “crossings over”.
The way I evolved from a young firebrand with the soul of an artist, to a mature artist with a fiery soul, is a complicated narrative, as most lives are that are judged by the glare of critics, and cameras, and whose careers are portrayed thru lenses of the paparazzi. The truth is often obscured by people whose prestige and fame rests upon the gloss or grime of their creative fiction. I wrote a book about this, and about many other things including the costumes we wear, and the personas we acquire to survive life under the bright lights.
My return to the stage involved friends and fortunate circumstances which, together, allowed me to rediscover the joy of performing with only me in charge of myself – me, conducting and performing at once, creating new art formed by the combination of my own artistic instinct and those of my fellow performers in juxtaposition, all conjoining to play as one instrument, assuming, to as great an extant as can be accomplished, the physiognomy of the composer as I feel it in my soul.
In the end, the greatest revelation afforded me by my retirement and subsequent return to the stage was that serious music is not just an extension of life, IT IS LIFE. And I also discovered the joy of sharing that revelation, those profound musical works, with others. So it happened that I decided to create a new art forum, a very personal art forum wherein I could share with others the feeling of welcoming embrace I developed between my soul and the souls of the great composers I so admired and studied and performed. This forum I call the UCM – and I invite you to join me as we journey thru music – thru life in music – together.