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Thread: Sofrinitsky

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    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    Default Sofrinitsky

    Any big fans out there? If you aren't familiar, here is my favorite of his performances: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e76oUfPErCk
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    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    And some quotes from my favorite site on him:

    "

    In his time V.Sofronitzki was considered to be the greatest pianist in Russia, a "living legend". Every Sofronitzki recital was a spiritual event for the public. He was a true poet of the piano, full of improvisatory spirit and inspiration. He had an allencompassing technique and his playing embodied a wide range of colors and textures, but these things could be said about many firstrate pianists. When at his best Sofronitzki's musicmaking seemed to transcend the bounds of normal expression and enter a new realm in which his every emotion would project from within the music and onto his audience. It is this indefinable spirituality of his playing that sets him apart.

    Sofronitzki was held in the highest esteem by his colleagues, including Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels and Heinrich Neuhaus. He was a friend of Prokofiev and Shostakovitch, and had a profound influence upon many Russian musicians, from V.Horovitz to Y.Kissin. When Richter and Sofronitzki drank a toast to seal their friendship, Sofronitzki proclaimed Richter a genius; Richter's immediate response was to call Sofronitzki a God. Gilels, upon hearing of Sofronitzki's death, is reputed to have said "the greatest pianist in the world has died."

    As he never performed outside Russia after his tour in France in the 1929, his art remained unknown to the Western public until recent years, when some of his recordings appeared in the Philips series "Great Pianists of the 20th century". Others have appeared on Denon and Harmonia Mundi."
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    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    Now a biography:

    "Vladimir Sofronitzki was born on the 8th of May 1901 in St.Petersburg. His father was a teacher of physics and his mother’s family line included V.Borovikovsky, one of the first Russian painters.

    In 1903 the Sofronitzki family moved to Warsaw, where Vladimir began piano lessons with A.Lebedeva-Getcevich, and from age nine with Alexander Michalowski. In 1916 Sofronitzki began his studies at the St.Petersburg conservatory with Professor Leonid Nicolaev. In 1919 Sofronitzki gave his first solo concert. In 1920 he married Elena Scriabin, a fellow conservatory student and the oldest daughter of Alexander Skrjabin. He graduated in 1921 and started his concert career. His performances were highly esteemed by Heinrich Neuhaus, Vladimir Horowitz and Egon Petri, as well as by former classmates Maria Yudina and Dmitry Shostakovich.

    In 1928 Sofronitzki went to Paris via Warsaw, which happened to be his last visit to the city where he had grown up. In Paris Sofronitzki became friends with Sergei Prokofiev and met Nikolai Medtner again. He returned to Russia in 1930 and thereafter only appeared in the West on one occasion, when he was suddenly put on an airplane and sent by Stalin to play at the Potsdam conference in 1945.

    In 1937 he gave a series of 12 “historical” concerts in Leningrad (formerly St.Petersburg), performing music from Buxtehude to Shostakovich. In 1939 he became a Professor at the Leningrad Conservatory. At the beginning of the Second World War he was trapped in Leningrad, where on 12 December 1941 he played a concert at -3C, wearing gloves with the fingers cut off: “But how I played!” In April 1942 he was evacuated via the “Air Bridge” from starving Leningrad, and brought to Moscow.

    In 1943 he became a professor at the Moscow conservatory, where he met and later married his student, Valentina Duschinova (Sofronitzki). He played concerts mostly in Moscow, and, after the war, in Leningrad, becoming widely regarded as the best pianist in Russia. Among his many performances, of special note are the cycles dedicated to the anniversary of Chopin’s death, in 1949, and of Schubert’s death, in 1953. Sofronitzki was a highly inspired performer, and each of his performances was regarded as a unique event. He hated recordings and regarded them as “my corpses”, nevertheless his live recordings give a sense of his astonishing musical power.

    Vladimir Sofronitzki lived in a private world of music and avoided intrigues. Simple and sensitive as a child, he spent a secluded life among his closest friends. Despite his attitude of non-participation - and thus only for his music performances - he was awarded the highest decoration in Russia: The Order of Lenin.

    Vladimir Sofronitzki led an active concert life until his last years. His last year of concert activity was 1960. His final performance took place on January 9, 1961, in the Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. He died from cancer on August 29, 1961."
    There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.
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    An interview with the musician (one of the few interviews attained I might add):


    "An Interview with Vladimir Sofronitsky

    (conducted by A. Vitsinsky on October 28, 1945)

    [Note: This interview was taken as part of a large project by Alexander Vitsinsky to interview a number of Soviet pianists on questions related to the performing art.]

    A preface by A. Vitsinksy

    The record of my conversation with V. V. Sofronitsky has its own, quite unusual history, and it? s necessary to understand that history if the interview itself is to be properly understood.

    A man of highly complex and difficult character, V. V. Sofronitsky refused, and in no uncertain terms, my original request for an interview. He said he found it absolutely impossible to discuss the questions proposed.

    Without losing hope I repeated my request from time to time, supporting it with my previous successful experience interviewing our other great pianists (Igumnov, Flier, Gilels), who agreed without hesitation to discuss the many aspects of the performer? s work that are accessible to self-observation and expressible in words.

    Slowly, Sofronitsky? s objections became less and less certain and, finally, he said to me: «If only you would invite us [himself and his second wife, V. N. Dushinova] and we could meet normally, for dinner or a cup of tea, and chat, then maybe I could tell you something.

    Such an approach to the situation would not have surprised anyone who knew Sofronitsky: he had no patience for any official business atmosphere, in which he tended to become tight and retreat into his shell. On the other hand, he liked meeting people, was open, friendly and sincere. Still, he could suddenly flare up when he encountered rudeness, vulgarity and banality. Except for such moments he was delicately tactful and attentively polite with all, starting with his students, and he enjoyed humor and joking.

    Sofronitsky knew me quite well. He was present at my recital in the Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatory in the fall of 1942, and starting in 1943 I had been an assistant with several students in his greatly increased class (my main job was as an associate professor in the piano section of the Musical Education department where I was temporarily section chairman). We met in the apartment of V. A. Arkhangelsky where the student classes took place at the time.

    Everything was organized as Vladimir Vladimirovich had suggested: we gathered at the dinner table, in the freest atmosphere. Still, the conversation turned out to be very difficult and not nearly as complete as hoped. Several times Sofronitsky changed the subject to outside topics, giving himself a break from an unpleasant task. Sometimes he would not answer for a long time, and were it not for the saving interdictions of Dushinova, it is unclear how the conversation would have continued.

    Still, despite all these shortcomings, the conversation contains interesting statements that provide additional strokes for the portrait of Sofronitsky. Some thoughts attract our attention in that they were repeated in later years almost identically and were therefore of constant value to him. For instance, his metaphoric statement on the relative value of the emotional and intellectual aspects of the performing art. (Later, in 1958, during the first Tchaikovsky competition, Sofronitsky said about Cliburn: «True great art is like hot boiling lava, covered above by seven layers of armor! His emotional heat is wonderful but he is still missing about five layers of armor.»)

    We encounter for the first time his acknowledgment of a tendency, even as a child, to listen to music internally, without an instrument, «seeking in it the necessary and finding it.» Isn? t it this ability to freely evoke inner sound images, later developed to perfection-the ability to vary the internal performance in search of expression-that makes for the permanent newness of Sofronitksy? s interpretations and ideas?

    He spent no less time on this inner work than he did at the instrument. According to his family, the work went on almost constantly. Born in the inner creative laboratory, on the stage the performance took on an improvisational character as if created on the spur of the moment.

    At first glance Sofronitsky? s description of his studies with the outstanding piano teachers A. Michalowski and L. V. Nikolayev may seem puzzling.

    As one can gather from his short statement, the young Sofronitsky was, in his studies with Michalowski, mistakenly eased out of the more purely technical exercises. And there was a certain lack of appreciation for his «lofty» demands on the repertoire.

    Later, during the years of more mature study with Nikolayev, Sofronitsky did not feel the hand of a truly involved teacher guiding his artistic development.

    Both are, nonetheless, teachers to whom he remained personally attached and respectful.

    Looking at only the critical side of his statements regarding Nikolayev, one should stress that they are not random and were repeated often. There are at least three analogous statements about his studies with Nikolayev in Recollections of Sofronitsky, made by multiple authors. The essence is: too little was taught and too much was praised. And then, quite concretely: «He should have made us learn all the Beethoven sonatas and Bach fugues-how necessary that was. And I was constantly told: ‘How wonderfully you play, Vovochka, how good you are?.»(Recollections of Sofronitsky, p. 326)

    The purely subjective nature of these remarks is obvious and unquestionable. They are typical examples of the «fearless truthfulness and total unexpectedness of many of his statements.» (From the memoirs of his son, A. V. Sofronitsky: «One could disagree with him but it was impossible not to believe him.»)

    For his part, Nikolayev? s position as a teacher is made clear by the caliber of his students. At the same time as Sofronitsky, in the spring of 1921, another student totally unusual in her originality and artistic potential was graduating from Nikolayev? s class in the Petrograd conservatory-Maria Yudina. And in order to formally guide a student with Sofronitsky? s uniquely original artistic gift, one would quite likely have had to sacrifice pedagogical tact, which was obviously not something Nikolayev was willing to do, and probably he was quite right.

    Sofronitsky, with his sensitivity, was deeply disturbed by the tiniest failures in his performances. This was perhaps the reason Nikolayev «over-praised» him-encouraging artistic initiative and confidence.

    A. V.
    The text of the interview

    A. V. Vitsinsky: Have you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, recently learned any works for the first time?

    Vladimir Sofronitsky: For my last recitals (October 16 and 23, 1946) I relearned Beethoven? s sonata «Les Adieux,» No. 26 in E flat (Op. 81a). I learned it in two weeks and played it unsuccessfully at the first recital: the sonata was not ready, did not mature, what came out was not what I wanted.... Before the second recital I took a break from it, did not play it at all, and it seems to me that it came out quite well.

    A. V.: Can you tell me how you worked on the sonata-your initial approach to the piece?

    V. S. It is hard to describe, impossible....

    V. Dushinova: I may, if you wish, tell you how Vladimir Vladimirovich works on new pieces, and also how he reviews the old ones. If something is not right in my observations, Vladimir Vladimirovich will correct me.

    A. V. Yes, of course, unless he objects.

    V. D. Vladimir Vladimirovich usually takes a fragment of the work, typically just from the beginning of the piece, and learns this episode, works on it until it comes out exactly as he wants it. Then he takes the next, learns it, and so on. Mainly, it seems to me that he works from the beginning to the end on each segment until he achieves the result.

    A. V. What would you say about this, Vladimir Vladimirovich?

    V. S. It seems so from the outside. Though in the sonata I started working not from the beginning but from the most difficult spot in the first movement [plays]. It is a very difficult place technically and I wanted to master it from the start. But most crucial is to find the heart of each piece or each sonata movement, feel its basic essence, culmination, and then-the same in each construction, every phrase. I played badly before, only in recent years have I come to understand-better and better-how to play. And if I am alive in several years then I will really start to play. One has to learn to hear oneself and that is very difficult. This is not a posture-I am speaking with absolute sincerity. First of all, a performance requires a will. A will-meaning to want a lot, to want more than you have now, more than you can give. For me the entire effort is strengthening the will. Here is all: rhythm, sound, emotion. Rhythm should be soulful. The whole piece should live, breathe, move as protoplasm. I play-and one part is alive, full of breath, and another part nearby may be dead because the live rhythmic flow is broken. Rachmaninoff, for instance, could create a rhythmic pulse that was unfailingly alive. He had the enormous artistic will of a genius. He had a greater will than any of the modern pianists. The same with Anton Rubinstein. Bulow played very cleanly and Rubinstein sloppily, but two or three dirty notes would damage Bulow? s playing more than fistfuls of them would damage Rubinstein? s. And why? Because Rubinstein had an enormous will. A will for hearing, for rhythmic life. And another point, most important: the more emotionally you play, the better, but this emotionality should be hidden, hidden as in a shell. When I come on stage now, I have «seven shells» under my tuxedo, and despite this I feel naked. So, I need fourteen shells. I have to wish to play so well, live so fully, as to die and still feel as if I have not played. I have nothing to do with this. Some special calm should prevail when you rise from the piano-as if somebody else had played.

    A. V. How does your work at home proceed, what does it consist of, what is the usual order of study?

    V. S. Now three hours are quite enough for me. But this does not mean that I don? t work more. My work may continue without the instrument, I may be talking to people, listening to them, answering quite reasonably, but work continues unceasingly inside. I was considered lazy when I was a boy-they did not understand that after playing a little on the piano and lying on the sofa afterward, I continued to work intensively inside, listening to the music, looking for the necessity and finding it.

    A. V. What are you imagining then-the sound image or something else?

    V. D. Vladimir Vladimirovich often says that during this time he imagines himself playing the piano in the Grand Hall of the Conservatory, for instance. As for practicing, there are days when Vladimir Vladimirovich sits at the piano almost non-stop for twelve hours, and there are days when he does not touch the piano at all.

    V. S. I have to play eight programs a year. This is not at all the case for pianists abroad. Rachmaninoff prepared two programs a year. He learned the program for two months, then rested for a month from it, playing only exercises, and then went on stage without reviewing the program. And this is Rachmaninoff for whom learning a piece took no effort. He told me once that, for instance, he spent two hours on a Scriabin etude from Op. 42 and did not learn it. You understand-he was surprised! Sometimes I practice on the piano extensively, but there have been cases when I worked on pieces for a long time and then failed at the recital in exactly those pieces, while the others, which I did not review at all, I played wonderfully. This has sometimes happened.

    V. D. Before a recital, Vladimir Vladimirovich works mostly on the first work of the program. Sometimes he works essentially on it alone.

    V. S. This is because if the first piece does not come out right then my spirits are low and I do not want to play anymore, everything is spoiled.

    A. V. Maybe you can tell us about the beginning of your musical life?

    V. S. Nobody truly taught me. L. V. Nikolayev is a marvelous musician but he is no pedagogue. He almost never intervened in my studies. He would assign, for instance, Schumann? s «Carnaval» to me. A week later I would come to class and play the «Carnaval.» Usually there would be a lot of people in the class. After the performance Nikolayev would come to me, shake my hand, thank me and assign another piece. That? s what happened most of the time. I am very grateful to him for a great exposure to the musical literature-we often played four hands, played through all kinds of compositions, symphonic and chamber-but I did not feel pedagogical guidance from him, I learned from myself. I remember well how I graduated from the conservatory. I was then 18 and I played with special inspiration. One can play like that only once. It is unforgettable. I played Beethoven? s Sonata Op. 111, Schumann? s Fantasy in C, Liszt? s sonata, Chopin? s Prelude No. 24 in d-minor. When I finished playing and went backstage, an old lady, a teacher at the conservatory, ran to me and told me that Glazunov-he was then the czar and God for me in music-was openly crying during the recital. Afterward he visited me and mumbled, in a strict and indifferent manner, in his deep voice: «So, my friend, why did you take that F-flat in the repeat, when it is marked simply F?» Before Nikolayev I studied with Michalowski in Warsaw. The by-now very famous Michalowski, who was later the chairman of the jury in the Chopin competitions. I liked him very much as a person, was very attached to him from childhood onwards, but his lessons did not inspire. They were not interesting. Michalowski was a Moscheles student, and Moscheles was a Beethoven student, so I may consider myself Beethoven? s great-grandson. When I was ten, in 1912, my father was transferred to St. Petersburg and my mother took me every month to Warsaw to see Michalowski until the war started, and then the trips ceased. After that I entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Before Michalowski, for about a year and a half, starting at about seven, I studied with the mother of the pianist Buyuckli. She had a very emotional attitude toward music. My studies, however, had begun even before that-just for a few months-with the composer Ruzicki, the father of the well-known Polish pianist. I exhibited perfect pitch very early. But I think perfect pitch only hinders a performing pianist. When you hear the whole text pitch-wise, I think that this complete determinacy makes it harder to feel the music, distracts somehow.

    A. V. Still, how does the preparation of a program for recital proceed?

    V. S. When I work on a piece, even an old one, review it for a recital-I take the score and start work from scratch, as if learning and creating the piece anew. I cannot do it any other way, and I believe that all artists should do this. I always find something new in the composition. My critics rebuke me that I have nothing determined and fixed, nothing stable in performing even the same piece. They do not understand that I have to justify the performance internally for myself, must hear and feel something new, different from the past. What is wrong with that? They say that I may play well by chance, or badly-also by chance. One cannot play well by chance, one can only play badly by chance.

    A. V. Do you like to improvise, did you improvise earlier as a child?

    V. S. I liked to improvise as a child. Even at a recital, after playing the prepared pieces I would be given a theme and I would improvise on it. When I was ten I was already composing. I still have many of the compositions. By the age of thirteen I had already written a number of fugues. My teacher spent a lot of time on polyphonic work and I myself liked composing fugues. Then I started to write an opera on Ibsen? s «Catilina.» The overture and the first act were written. My father wrote the libretto. I also wrote a quartet and piano variations. Much of what was written in my youth has not been preserved. Gradually, in the years of maturity, I lost the improvisatory gift, and I also stopped composing completely.... Yesterday I performed for a recording. You know, it is very useful to listen to yourself on record. It gives a performer a great deal."
    There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.
    Nahj ul-Balāgha by Ali bin Abu-Talib

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    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    Some words from Maria Yudina (translated by Lenya Ryzhik):


    "Several words about the late precious artist Vladimir Sofronitsky

    Writing about a remarkable musician, who has recently ended his life path, is a difficult and important task.

    It always seems to our near-sighted spiritual vision that we could still hear this or that in the performances by the inspired artist, share with him our gratefulness and admiration: it seems that he could be healed of a basically untreatable sickness that has struck him, and would regain his creative strength expressed physically, since his internal strength has never left him. Yet, all these fantasies are a naive childish babble in the face of Eternity, in which we are left to contemplate his luminous image. And — as it happens almost always — death opens the «vertical» of the person who left us, his wholesome sound, since everything earthly is completed, and no longer unfolds in the diverse intersection of the dynamics of life in time.

    And now, apart from adding up his truly enormous legacy that is left to us in recordings of his interpretative art — not only in recordings, but also in the live memories of his still alive listeners — together with the grief of unrecoverable loss of an artist and a man (and a friend and teacher for many) — we are left with some of his, almost last, words, that enlighten and spiritualize retrospectively his past life by a magnificent, soft, sufferer’s light. I have not unfortunately heard these words personally from him, but their truthfulness is absolutely beyond doubt, they made rounds about the whole country, and, probably, other countries as well, since the name of Sofronitsky was and remains known all over the world. These words related to a simple, even the simplest matter — his treatment, pain-killing injections; he told his loved ones: «Do not spare me, do not lie to me, I should suffer it all».

    It seems to me that these several words, in their modest spiritual greatness, in their everlasting radiating significance, stand at the same level as his performances. They exist in different realms, but have one essence that is close and dear to each beating heart and vibrating thought. We won’t argue here about death and immortality, faith and atheism, intuition and reliability but rather bow down to the mystery of un-understandable (as Einstein said), and in the words of one of our contemporaries (not at all the most dear to me but still a remarkable poet), Louis Aragon: «Qui croit et qui ne croit pas.»

    The memory of Sofronitsky, his art, his suffering image, his restlessness during his life, his humble death belong to all of us forever.

    As is well known, Vladimir Vladimirovich, Vovochka, and I studied at the Leningrad (then Petrograd) conservatory at the same time, but with different professors in different classes. Shortly after my teacher Vladimir Drozdov left in 1918 for the USA (I went home then to spend some time with my dear mother, who passed away shortly afterward, and then worked as a music teacher — all that happened in my hometown Nevel), I became one of the pupils of Leonid Nikolayev, and Vovochka Sofronitsky was already shining in his class. We studied together with him for one year, but rarely met during lessons: I was preoccupied with my studies at the University at that time, and also in the conducting class of Emilii Cooper, where the main «food» for his class were performances at the Mariinsky theater that Cooper directed («The tale of Kitezh», «Lohengrin»; and «Die Walkire» was also prepared). Unfortunately Vovochka and I almost never saw each other in Nikolayev’s class. Even more so because I was graduating with the works that I learned previously with Drozdov, the most prominent one being Liszt h-moll sonata. It was also present in Vovochka’s final program. So both of us played it — one after the other, since our graduation performances were scheduled for two days in a row (there was no pompous word «diploma» then).

    The Small Hall of the Petrograd Conservatory was full on both days (it was either May or June — I don’t remember! — of 1921) [Yudina and Sofronitsky gave their performances on the same day, May 13], and, as it happens now at competitions, the piano fans were divided sharply into two parties: admirers of Yudina and Sofronitsky. The Liszt sonata got an especially heated discussion. Huge articles about the two of us, our impending bright future, and the differences between us, were published in newspapers; I remember well Nikolai Strelnikov, who was the author of one of them, an educated and witty journalist, who later wrote some operettas, but also befriended Alban Berg who visited the Soviet Union at the time of the performances of his remarkable opera «Wozzeck». However, neither the variety of critics’ opinion, nor the differences in our tastes and biases, caused any fall out between me and Sofronitsky. Neither did they draw us closer — each one went on his own path.

    We talked sometimes during classes and rehearsals before our graduation from the Conservatory (I did have to tear myself away from the medieval Latin texts and attend the required classes ...). Vovochka even then was a remarkable interpreter of Scriabin, while I was studying Bach cantatas (and even learned some of them with Oda Slobodskaya, a marvelous dramatic soprano at the Mariinsky Theater), and started playing the whole «Well-Tempered Clavier»; I expressed to my inspired friend my disappointment in his lack of love for Mozart — that is how we showed each other peacefully our own ways, our treasures, and our idols! ... I should mention here that in 1920 Vladimir Sofronitsky married Elena (or Lialia), the elder daughter of Alexander Scriabin. All of us at the Conservatory observed with sympathy and happiness their poetic mutual love. They were incredibly charming!

    Their youth, and unusual, inspired and transparent beauty of both Vovochka an Lialia made them everybody’s favorites, not to mention the talent of the groom, and the name of bride’s father. They would regularly come to a performance at the Small Hall of the Conservatory, and sit in one of the last rows (then, in the midst of the Civil War, most concerts were not full or sold out) for un-interrupted whispered dialogue, or a dialogue of gazes. Attention of the others did not disturb them: both they and this attention were pure and touching. Lialia was, of course, also a good pianist. This period was clouded only by the illness of Lialia’s and Masha’s (Maria Scriabina-Tatarinova, a wonderful woman, who worked later at Scriabin’s museum) mother, Vera Isakovich, a wonderful well-known pianist, professor at the Leningrad Conservatory; she died soon afterward, one of the first flu victims.

    That is «when» we graduated; it is inappropriate to discuss «how». But both of us remained in Art.

    Another wonderful pianist, Ariadna Birmak, graduated at the same time. Both of us, Sofronitsky and I received a grand piano ... on paper ... [Both Yudina and Sofronitsky received the Gold medal and Anton Rubinstein prize, and according to the tradition they should have received white Schroeder pianos as the prize. The latter never arrived.]

    It was a difficult time ...

    We almost haven’t seen each other in the twenties: each own had his own path, «days and labour», sorrow and joy.

    We met «artistically» much later, in 1930 or 1931. I often traveled then to Tiflis and Yerevan to play, and the artistic atmosphere there was right for me. I suggested to Vladimir Vladimirovich that we prepare a joint program for two pianos, and so we did: two fugues from the «The Art of Fugue», Mozart D Minor Sonata — and I forgot what else!!! It is unbelievable but I forgot!! [Their performances took place on May 24, 1931: two fugues from «The Art of Fugue», Mozart D Minor Sonata, Schumann B-minor variations, Taneyev Prelude and Fugue in g sharp minor, Busoni Concert duet in Mozart style, and Debussy «Blanc et Noir».] However, without any doubt, all Sofronitsky’s programs have been preserved by his devoted friends, while I never collected mine; I was fortunate, with God’s help, to have many wonderful friends, but my disregard to all outside attributes of the artistic career, was, probably even stronger than that of Vladimir Vladimirovich, or his friends were more persisting in this respect, and one may recover our programs! I remember that during our rehearsals Sofronitsky, who didn’t know these works before, was saying: «How marvelous, how beautiful, as in Heaven!» I met the wonderful family of artists Wiesel, who worshiped Sofronitsky; the father was a well-known professor at the Arts Academy in Petrograd, and of the daughters, Ada, was an architect, and a devoted, wise, lifelong friend of the artist.

    We played this program in Tiflis, and then in Leningrad, at the so called Chamber Music Society.

    Unfortunately we rarely met in the thirties, but I remember vividly three encounters. The first: once late at night I was visited by Meyerholds, Vsevolod Emilyevich and Zinaida Nikolayevna, with Vladimir Vladimirovich Sofronitsky. Vladimir Vladimirovich was extremely excited and immediately tore off the handle of the shaky door of my dwelling at the Palace Square, the dwelling was not heated, I had nothing for tea (this was a hard time for me) but we were all infinitely happy to see each other, each one talked about himself, his plays, performances, hopes and disasters. The ice on Neva shone outside, enormous winter star constellations looked on us kindly from above, they left in the middle of the night, after staying for many hours, we were all happy: they were famous, and I was in one of my stints in disfavor with the powers.

    That was one of the fantastic meetings between us, the people, sincerely devoted to Art ...

    Another one — joyful, in the favorite Sofronitsky childish way ... We played «petits jeux» at the Wiesels, Sofronitsky never pretended, he was often a big child, had fun, played many games, as a child, having a short break from the spiritual stress, from the eternal slavery of the requirements of a strict Muse.

    Then — in the beautifully decorated — with ancient china, and other rarities — house of our friend and colleague, Maria Yushkova-Zalesskaya (who graduated with Nikolayev a year after us), and her husband, a man of rare kindness and education, Boris Zalessky, a well known petrographer. It was always a pleasure to visit them, though they lived on the outskirts of the city, near the Polytechnic Institute.

    The late Maria Konstantinovna was an excellent musician and a beauty, who presented herself in an Egyptian style.

    I was getting into Khlebnikov then!

    I brought with me the third volume of his poetry that evening, and intended to read «Zangezi» and other poems to everybody, but Vladimir Vladimirovich had different ideas: he took the book out of my hands, opened it in a random place and after seeing something totally incomprehensible, tore the book apart and flung it across the carefully decorated room nearly breaking one of the precious tea sets. This was typical Sofronitsky: spontaneous, sometimes impetuous, joyful, wistful.

    During our stay in Tiflis the respectable professors of Tiflis conservatory organized a traditional Georgian feast in our honour; there was also a swimming pool with live fish on a stone floor. Sofronitsky was extremely bored by all these old (except me, of course), pompous, old-fashioned ... and then he suddenly stepped into that swimming pool in his tuxedo!! Everybody was terrified, and everybody forgave everything ...

    Let us leave aside these amusing details. They only provide a partial whimsical frame to the austere image of a marvelous artist in a grotesque or bizarre style.

    I think that Sofronitsky is the closest to Chopin: forceful, bright, truthful, soulful, elegiac but also elegant — these are qualities common to all Art. However, both in Chopin and Sofronitsky they are stressed to an extreme, with their life on the line, seriously, in tears flowing on their face, hands, life or ascetically swallowed — there is no room for the tears, everything is going to disappear now — faster, faster!! — or everything is shining in the purity of the spiritual look facing the sunny Source of Truth.

    Sofronitsky was exactly a pure romantic; he is all yearning to the infinite and totally indifferent to the sea of life and is completely helpless in such.

    Several more words on Sofronitsky’s appearance in Moscow during World War II.

    The start of 1942 was marked by arrival of Vladimir Vladimirovich Sofronitsky, who was saved and brought by a plane from Leningrad.

    Our joy can not be described. Those of us in Moscow did not know whether to count him among the living or the dead, his first concerts here were treated as a miracle, a resurrection from the dead.

    These concerts were guarded by mounted police so that the people striving to get inside would not bring the buildings down.

    This Dionysian worship continued for many years afterward. The date of his historic arrival is March 9, 1942. [Sofronitsky came to Moscow on April 8, 1942.]"
    There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.
    Nahj ul-Balāgha by Ali bin Abu-Talib

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    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    Sofronitsky the Legend by Prof. E.Fedorovich (translated by J.Kopper):

    "Sofronitsky the Legend

    In the history of performance art certain names stand out for the special associations they evoke.
    The twentieth century gave us a striking constellation of great musicians, including pianists. But at the name "Sofronitsky" we experience a unique sensation. He stands alone. There never was and never will be another like him. He fits no category, and remains indefinable. The one label that everyone rightly assigns him is "great romantic". But it is a mystery that the twentieth century, utterly unromantic, short on "sincerity of feelings", bursts of passion, delicacy of emotion, and exercises in "self-immolation", would produce a musician who embodied these qualities in their highest form.

    The name of Sofronitsky is connected above all, and properly so, with the music of Chopin and Scriabin. For Sofronitsky's generation, nineteenth-century interpretations of Chopin had long been considered problematic. The numerous layers of sentimentality under which the salon school buried Chopin's music had been replaced by technically perfect renditions, irreproachable in their purity of sound, but clearly deficient. Something imperceptible escaped the majority of performers, even the greatest. A certain Chopin "nerve" was left untouched.

    This sense of Chopin's music, inexpressible in words, and impossible to teach, was God's gift to Sofronitsky. Those who heard him in concert recall the invisible but tangible connection he established with his audience. In this bond lay the very essence of Chopin's music. Sofronitsky's loftiness of inspiration, and the exactness with which he could strike the Chopin "nerve", were qualities possessed by no other pianist-at least those whose art is accessible to us, if only in recordings. This feature of Sofronitsky's style was conspicuously manifest in his performances of other composers as well: Scriabin, whom he idolized, and whose oeuvre he could perform practically in its entirety; the unfathomable and fantastic universe of Schumann; the philosophical works of Liszt; and Schubert, Mozart, and Prokofiev.

    It is our misfortune that we can listen to Sofronitsky only in recordings, for the art of this exquisite pianist, always subject to fleeting changes in moods, has lost something in transmission. So, at least, affirm those few of our contemporaries who were lucky to hear Sofronitsky live. Because he was out of favor with the government, Sofronitsky was not given the opportunity, still rare in his lifetime, to make stereo recordings, and in any event he disliked studios. Nevertheless, even bearing in mind all these “minuses” to his recordings, we can identify a Sofronitsky recording literally after a few measures. Listeners recognize a living spirit breathing through his music; a style which escapes the confines of the bar lines; a forceful masculinity, combined with refinement and delicacy; a willful rubato that never violates the spirit of the composer. One simple word characterizes perfectly both Sofronitsky’s art and the temperament of the man: beauty. It permeated everything. In the words of Henrich Neigauz, Sofronitsky himself was “beautiful, like a youthful Apollo.” Perhaps Sofronitsky lived in the twentieth century, the cruelest of epochs, as a reminder that a person can be beautiful, and that he can create art.

    Vladimir Sofronitsky studied under remarkable teachers in Warsaw and Petersburg, including Anna Lebedeva-Getsevich, Alexander Mikhalovsky, and Leonid Nikolaev. They taught him mastery of his craft, and he remained deeply grateful to them all. But in a larger sense, as is the case with the greatest artists, Sofronitsky was self-taught. He made himself a musician. In his extraordinarily gifted soul were uniquely refracted great music, great painting (his ancestor was the outstanding Russian artist Vladimir Borovikovsky), and great poetry (Sofronitsky’s favorite poet was Alexander Blok). The ability to express art’s innermost core gave him an unsurpassed mastery, one rare among “romantics.” In this he was more modern than, for one, his contemporary and kindred spirit Henrich Neigauz, whose romantic charisma at the piano outstripped his technical abilities. For Sofronitsky everything was subordinate to his pianism. The famous “unevenness” in his playing (and the recurrent cancellation of sections of concerts and even entire performances) were not caused by lapses in technique, but by his emotional states. At every concert Sofronitsky was “on fire,” and sometimes he burned himself out.

    At his very first appearance before a wider public, the phenomenon of Sofronitsky attracted attention. His final exam in May, 1921, when he played Liszt’s Sonata in B-minor, belongs to the history of much more than the Petrograd Conservatory. It was one of Russia’s great piano performances. On this day two titans entered the music arena, Maria Yudina and Vladimir Sofronitsky (both students of Leonid Nikolaev). One could not imagine a greater dissimilarity of creative temperament between them. At this early stage in his career, leading musicians and cultural figures like Alexander Glazunov, Alexander Ossovsky, Vsevolod Meyerhold, and Petr Konchalovsky had already given the young artist glowing testimonials.

    In the period 1928-1930 Sofronitsky made the only extended international tour of his career, to Poland and France. The public, foremost musicians like Prokofiev, Nikolai Medtner, Alexander Borovsky, Alexander Glazunov, F.?? Pleyel, as well as ordinary listeners all welcomed him enthusiastically, grasping immediately the significance of this rare appearance by a Russian pianist. Although many expected him to remain in the West, which worshiped him, Sofronitsky returned to his native land. At that time the Iron Curtain was already beginning to divide the USSR from the West, and when the great artist returned, it closed immediately behind him. Only once after this did Sofronitsky travel outside the USSR. In 1945, by special order of Stalin, Sofronitsky was asked to play at the Potsdam Conference before the heads of state of the victorious Allies. Sofronitsky was certainly among the best that the USSR could display on such an occasion, as it attempted to burnish its international reputation. But he was heard by only a few people.

    The fact that Sofronitsky almost never left the USSR explains why his name in the West in the second half of the twentieth century—and all the more so today—has never won the worldwide notoriety which it deserves. For the majority of music lovers and critics in the United States and Western Europe, Sofronitsky has remained, by all accounts, “a Russian enigma.” The West simply did not have the opportunity to measure his art for its true worth. One can begin to understand what Western audiences lost by simply comparing, for example, the Chopin recordings of Sofronitsky with analogous recordings made by the universally recognized masters of Chopin. Next to Sofronitsky, the latter distinctly smack of the banal.

    Besides the works of Chopin, the pearls of Sofronitsky’s repertoire include Schumann’s cycles “Kreisleriana,” “Carnaval,” the “Symphonic Études,” (listeners nicknamed them “Sofronic Etudes”), the “Davidsbündler Dances,” “Papillons,” the Fantasia in C, and “Arabesques.” The element of the fabulous in Schumann’s music, his nervous but sublime impulsiveness, emotional fire, and rich tonal color found in Sofronitsky the rarest of interpreters. He subordinated so much of the music to his own artistic ideas that even for those who knew him only through recordings, it was difficult afterwards to conceive of other interpretations, even if they happened to be remarkable in their own way.

    The majority of Liszt’s études and rhapsodies, and his purely virtuoso pieces, were almost never played by Sofronitsky for the stage. Liszt’s philosophical works, however— the second Mephisto Waltz and both his sonatas —and inspired interpretations of Schubert’s lieder are linked for an entire generation of listeners with Sofronitsky’s name.

    Schubert and Scriabin. Mozart and Prokofiev. Beethoven and Rachmaninov. Borodin and Lyadov. With a certain degree of caprice Sofronitsky would choose masterpieces closest to him in spirit, and became in fact their co-author. His interpretations cannot be confused with those of others. The uncommon delicacy and refinement of his renditions were matched by a complete absence of mannerism or false sincerity. At the foundation of all his interpretations lies a search for authenticity. To his public Sofronitsky was an icon. He would cancel concerts, but they accepted without question the willfulness of their idol, hoping that the next time they would be lucky enough to hear a miracle. When they could, his listeners would sometimes go twice to hear the same program. He would play the same music differently.

    Among his peers, Sofronitsky exercised an almost mystical authority. The mid-twentieth century saw the performing arts in Russia at their zenith. At one time Henrich Neigauz, Konstantin Igumnov and Samuil Feinberg were all actively performing, as were Lev Oborin, Maria Yudina, Grigory Ginzburg and Yakov Flier. Gilels and Richter were entering their prime. But among these brilliant artists Sofronitsky occupied a special niche. Their internal rivalries did not touch him in the least. They all worshiped him. Trapped behind the Iron Curtain, Vladimir Sofronitsky had to drink in full measure the bitter cup of misfortune that was passed to his countrymen. He endured the first terrible blockade winter in Leningrad. Like everyone around him, he knew about the “Black Marias,” arriving in the night to carry away their victims, and he suffered under the hopeless stupidity of Soviet offialdom. The shortage of the most fundamental necessities, the ideological dictates of the Communists... Sofronitsky’s fragile, otherworldly genius endured all of this.

    He spent the final period of his creative life, the years 1942 to 1961, in Moscow. Sofronitsky was taken to Moscow during the siege of Leningrad, and there he remained. His favorite concert venues were the Great Hall and the Little Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, as well as the Scriabin Museum. He could score triumphs in the city’s largest halls, but according to the reminiscences of lucky witnesses, the atmosphere of his late concerts in the small auditorium of the Scriabin Museum, a hall imbued with its own special spirit, was unique. Sofronitsky "burned out" at the age of 60. From his arrival in our artistic life to his final exit, he blazed like a bright comet from another world. Now only his recordings remain."

    He certainly is my favorite pianist that I know of. I hope you enjoyed the interesting quotes
    There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.
    Nahj ul-Balāgha by Ali bin Abu-Talib

  7. #7
    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    No one has any opinion worth speaking out, huh? Still, I had fun letting people see the interviews and the biographies.
    There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.
    Nahj ul-Balāgha by Ali bin Abu-Talib

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    Senior Member MrTortoise's Avatar
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    Well I certainly appreciate the effort. I was not familiar with Sofronitsky and the YouTube clip was fantastic. Mind you he is now on my radar. What rep did Sofronitsky prefer?

  9. #9
    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    If by Rep, you mean repertoire, than he liked the followed composers the most (in order of preference): Scriabin, Chopin, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Scarlatti, and Bach. That accounts for a majority of his playing (at least what we have recorded). Supposedly, though, he knew more pieces/composers even than Richter.

    Please clarify if you meant something different by saying Rep. Also, if anyone wants any more references to his famous performances, I could catalog a ton of them for you folks.
    There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.
    Nahj ul-Balāgha by Ali bin Abu-Talib

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    Junior Member cultchas's Avatar
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    Very informative. Thanks again Lukecash12 for posting!
    Cultchas: for the underrated and atypical

  11. #11
    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    No problem. Enjoy the quotes; They're pretty fantastic.
    There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.
    Nahj ul-Balāgha by Ali bin Abu-Talib

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    Junior Member audiophilia's Avatar
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    Huge fan. Man's a piano God!

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    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    Heartily agreed!
    There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.
    Nahj ul-Balāgha by Ali bin Abu-Talib

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    Default Omg!

    Any big fans out there? If you aren't familiar, here is my favorite of his performances: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e76oUfPErCk


    Am I dead? Because This guy playing one of my favourite composers, Scriabin...is the paradise!



    Martin

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    Default New purchase!


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