The Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra’s rehearsal studio was thrilled with anticipation: a nearly unique event was to come. Vladimir Fedoseyev’s master class on symphonic conducting “Beethoven and Tchaikovsky: Problems of Interpretation”. The audience included young and experienced symphonic conductors from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Germany, Spain and Switzerland.

Why did Maestro choose Beethoven and Tchaikovsky? Perhaps, for the reason they have always been the integral basis of the orchestra’s repertoire. Moscow and Vienna recently heard two grandiose programme cycles by Fedoseyev – “Tchaikovsky on Sunday Afternoon” encompassing Tchaikovsky’s all symphonies and suites and “Beethoven and… Beethoven” comprising all symphonies and concertos by Beethoven. The orchestra is invited to the Musikverein Golden Hall to perform four programmes of Beethoven’s symphonies in March 2009.

“Beethoven is among my strongest and most intimate affections,” Fedoseyev says. “It takes a lifetime to grasp Beethoven, and only by the end of your life span, perhaps, you may realise the true dimension of his genius … …Respectful to tradition, I was long searching a personal key into Beethoven’s world. You have to be as close to the score, to his directions as you can. Beethoven is exceptionally up-to-date! He is beyond time. And Tchaikovsky’s music will live as long as Man exists. It evokes such emotions, it goes so deep into the human soul, it is so sincere and absolute, that it cannot but touch your innermost feelings.” Fedoseyev deplored the traditional petty, pretentious and over-sentimental interpretation of Tchaikovsky, especially by foreign musicians. Tchaikovsky’s music indeed is full of specific sensations, but it needs be rightly captured and delivered. How to enliven the musical breath and impart your understanding of the score to the ensemble? This became the main subject of the master class.

Rehearsing with an extra class orchestra is quite a complicated process … Repeats on repeats … Immersion in a relative associative image world based on silent note signs. Diving into the score, specifying details and subtleties, searching for the sound … Everything which is hidden from the listener on the concert. Time of searches, errors and victories – a titanic toil, and intimate communication between the conductor and a hundred musicians , the orchestra’s live body. This is far from easy. But Maestro was always there to help, very mildly and tactfully, without a hint of the dictatorship often associated with the conducting craft.

Luckily, the world fame has not made Fedoseyev unattainable at his podium. He is simple and open. He is not suppressing or preaching, he is inviting to co-creation. Maestro lamented at the lost school of orchestra conducting technique and at the superficial approach to the composer’s intent, and sometimes spent half an hour on several bars. Or, he would come himself to the stand and make a miracle – the orchestra would momentarily sound a million timbre subtleties and dynamic niceties.

“I’m working all my life on the right sound. This is very difficult – to create, and then to retain the sound – the one which is rich, deep, mild, homogeneous and musical.” “A good symphony orchestra must sound in such concord and purity as an ideal quartet.” “Prolong the sound into the pause! Make the pause sound! Play the note before the caesura milder. Enter the music mildly. Don’t stress the opening note. Find a suitable nuance. Music is not born at this moment – it has lived long before your play starts, and it only becomes audible to us with the first note.”

Three days of conversation with Maestro. Have they in any way changed the young conductors’ view of their craft? And what is the conducting craft about, after all? About its daily work, endless perspectives of understanding and conveyance, urge towards publicity and fame? Hopefully, the flame kindled in the participants’ hearts will continue and produce an even brighter light. Maybe, the master’s feelings imparted to them will help them find their own way in music and its interpretation.

The musicians of the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra and Vladimir Fedoseyev have donated their fee for the master class to the development of the orchestra conducting department at the Gnesins’ Academy of Music.

Elena Vostok


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