The Gift of a Cello "Granddaughter:"
The end of the concert season was graced by a short festival marking the 100th anniversary of the great Russian cellist, Svyatoslav Knushevitsky. Technically, his birthday falls on the end of this year, and the concerts were organized by the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, the Moscow Conservatory, and the radio program "Culture" (as part of the Fifth Studio series "Musical Rarities"). But something must have been in the air, to make our best cellists – N. Gutman, V. Simon, A. Knyazev, I. Gavrysh and others – think of this artist at this particular time. Hearing Knushevitsky play (for example, as part of the legendary trio with David Oystrakh and Lev Oborin he often played with), one cannot help but marvel at the noble, aristocratic beauty of his sound. What a pity that most of these magnificent recordings survive only on old vinyl records that have become rare collectors' items. I did recently come across a Rachmaninov cello sonata on CD, performed by Knushevitsky and Oborin; but the rights to the release had been bought up by the Japanese who now sell it to us at double the price.
Yet not even these unfestive thoughts could eclipse my impressions of one of these memorial concerts, organized by the Philharmonic Orchestra and by Igor Gavrysh, a student of Knushevitsky's, now a Professor at the Moscow Conservatory. He performed with two of his students: Tanya Anisimova, a graduate of the Conservatory, now representing the United States, and young Byung Se Bong (South Korea), winner of the first prize at the Knushevitsky competition held in his birthplace, the town of Petrovsk. One may say that Knushevitsky's traditions are not only being passed down to new generations but are also being spread around the world.
The cellists chose to mark the jubilee with an unusual program where familiar pieces appeared under new angles. Like, for example, Jacques Offenbach, performed by a cello duet of I. Gavrysh and Byung Se Bong. Who could have thought that the king of operetta also wrote perfectly traditional classical music, much less for such an unconventional ensemble? Next in the program came the famous Brahms violin sonata No. 3 in D minor, transcribed for the cello and piano by Tanya Anisimova. According to her, this is part of a larger all-Brahms series, which will include recording three violin sonatas transcribed for the cello and two original cello sonatas.
Naturally, the cello version of the sonata brought something new into the musical representation of the work. Under the hands of Anisimova and her partner, pianist Lydia Frumkin (USA), the first movement took on a dark, foreboding character. The adagio brimmed with epic lyricism. The scherzo came out as a fantasy piece à la Schumann, and the finale provided the dramatic climax. Although somewhat foreign to the ears of fans of the original violin version, the new interpretation as played by the duo was convincing.
Tanya Anisimova is not only a performer but a composer; each of her return visits to her native soil is accompanied by a premiere of a new composition. This time Tanya and her teacher, I. Gavrysh, played an interesting piece for two cellos called Caravan. Anisimova is fascinated by Eastern cultures and Sufism, and the fabric of her piece contained echoes of Orientalism.
The concert ended with Rachmaninov's cello sonata performed by our American guests. As in their Brahms sonata, the quality of the ensemble deserves a special mention. Lydia Frumkin accompanied Tanya Anisimova with exceptional, painstaking delicacy, sometimes even restraining the full might of the piano in order to leave room for the soaring flight of the cello. And this unique evening was crowned by a still more extraordinary encore. Playing with Byung Se Bong, Tanya improvised an oriental composition where, in a climactic moment, she began to sing. Anisimova's multifaceted creativity cannot help but draw the listener in. And this is especially pleasant, given that she is essentially a "musical granddaughter" of Svyatoslav Knushevitsky, whose legacy -- as this concert showed -- is flourishing.
Culture, Issue No. 22 (7583), July 7-13, 2007