Mikhail Arkadiev remembers Sviridov
Gergii Vasilievich Sviridov was born into the family of a postman on December 16 1915, in the town of Fatezh, not far from Kurst. He was one of the most distinguished composers of the Twentieth Century, alongside Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Kachaturian. He was also a well-known pianist. He studied at the Leningrad Conservatoire (1936-41)as a pianist and composer and was a favourite pupil of Shostakovich, who regarded him as a genius and told him this personally. Sviridov lived in Moscow from 1956. His music enjoys exceptional success among the broadest of audiences, as well as professional ones. Without exaggeration he could be called not only the most famous composer in Russia, but also the most loved and popular. In 1995 his 80th jubilee was marked by the whole country. On his birthday Dmitri Hvorostovski and Mikhail Arkadiev performed three vocal cycles to words by Pushkin, Esenin and Blok. The concert took place in the presence of the Russian prime-minister and was broadcast on television.
The main themes of his work are the tragic fate of Russia and the surmounting of that tragedy through the radiant lyrical ecstasy, and also the theme of the death of the poet. He was one of the first to set the poems of Boris Pasternak to music, moreover at a time when Pasternak's poetry was 'under suspicion', after the Nobel Prize scandal. The cantata 'It is snowing' (1965) to poems of Pasternak, is one of the finest and most inspired of his works.
Sviridov's work, like that of any true artist, holds a certain secret. This secret cannot be reasoned out, it must be listened to attentively, in order for its fragile purity to remain intact. And it is in this paradoxical fragility that the riddle of Sviridov's music is contained. However the huge world of images of the composer is measured, it's essence lies in the directness and tenderness of lyrical experience. But this is experience of an entirely special nature. It cannot be described in terms of subjective romantic experience and can in no way be reduced to that.
In the lyrical utterance of Sviridov there is a ferment which makes him above all a compaser of the second half of the Twentieth Century, a composer writing after the Second World War, after Osventsim, after the horrors of the Russian terror of the 30s and 40s. This ferment is the existential loneliness of existence. One tries, as muci as this is possible, to enter the world of manifesto ideas. 'At the end of the day - art is important as such. The artist has a vocation to create a masterpiece, in this is his only destiny' - in these words of Sviridov is the key to the concealed world of his work.
Georgii Sviridov will remain in the history of Russian and world music fundamentally as a composer vocal music. This is connected chiefly with the quantitative predominance of music for the human voice over instrumental music in Sviridov's legacy. There are also such works as 'Little Triptych', 'Time, Forward!' for a large symphony orchestra, ar 'Blizzard' - undoubted masterpiece written purely for instruments. Regarding 'Blizzard' - this is of course one of the riddles which Sviridov has set for his contemporaries.
The world of his vocal music id boundless. It encompasses several independant poetic worlds, though we can name only a few of them: Pushkin, Blok, Esenin, Mayakovski, Pasternak. Behind the huge mass of vocal compositions of Sviridov lies one of the cardinal problems of musical art in general and of Sviridov's work in particular: the problem of music and words, composer and poet. Sviridov has found his own way of resolving this problem. In his vocal compositions there occurs a certain structural event: the melodic and rhythmic line is so tightly interwoven witht the rhythmic and metrical life of the verse that that at times has the impression that the poetry is born with the music. The vocal art of Sviridov really aspires to return to the primary unity of music and verse, irrevocably lost along the road of historical development,
Indeed with this intention, in this passionate and nostalgic mutual tendency of word and music is hidden the uniqueness and complete newness which shines in Sviridov's work.
Georgii Sviridov died in Moscow in January 1998.