"This Degenerate Should be Placed in a Freak Show"
A famous Azerbaijani pianist Gulshan Annagiyeva made a conceptual concert at the Mugam Center. The idea of the "Degenerative music" of the Third Reich and the "non-existent" music in the USSR" belongs to the musicologist Rauf Farkhadov and is aimed to create a cultural space where the creators' music and art convicted of avant-garde, would have made a harmonious whole.
The anchorman of the concert, Doctor of Arts and the expert of the Russian Association of contemporary music Rauf Farkhadov acquainted the audience with the history of the issue before the beginning of each of the concert's parts. On commentary to the first part of the concert dedicated to "degenerative art" of the Third Reich he exposed the sad realities of that time and showed parallels with a similar situation in the Soviet Union.
Rauf Farkhadov: "How did this definition 'degenerative art' appear? There are several versions. One of them is related to Richard Wagner, who, as we know, was an extreme anti-Semite. Talking with Friedrich Nietzsche, he once said: 'This degenerate Jewish nation must be completely thrown away from the German art; otherwise it turns into trash and garbage'. Another version goes to the times of the Olympics in 1936. An active Nazi party member Bruno Malitz after a phenomenal afro-American athlete Jesse Owens had won the run, once remarked: 'This degenerate should be placed in a freak show, but not in the stadium'. Hitler had a pathological hatred of avant-garde art. He treated it as a Bolshevik-Jewish conspiracy. Adolf Ziegler, the president of the State Chamber of Fine Arts in 1936, was ordered to destroy everything that did not conform to the ideals of Nazi culture. There was a 'cleaning' in all museums when about 13 thousand pictures were withdrawn. As a result of seizures the exhibition of 'Degenerate Art' was shown in 1937. Counting on the censure of society, the Nazi government unwillingly made a wonderful advertisement of the artists. As a result the exhibition was visited by more than three million people. It was an unexpected result. The list of degenerates was supplemented by the composers whose works would be performed in the first part of the concert."
The visual sequence of the first part was presented by paintings of those artists whose works are inseparable from their time. They are Ernst Barlach, Max Beckmann, George Grosz, Otto Dix, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, Heinrich Campendonk, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Franz Marc, Bernhard Hoetger, Emil Nolde, Max Ernst, Edvard Munch, Lovis Corinth, Marc Chagall and Wassily Kandinsky. Paintings, shifting on the projection screen, added a new dimension to the music, creating a polyphony of meanings.
The concert was opened with monochrome, almost "woody" Variations op. 27 by Anton von Webern. Impulsively performed Three Pieces op.11 by Arnold Schoenberg were changed by the miniatures by Ernst Krenek, one of the most original composers of the twentieth century, whose works are still controversial among critics and listeners. The parade of German "degenerates from music" was finished by satanic swirl of masks of "Suite 1922" by Paul Hindemith, a kind of reflection on art nouveau that had disappeared forever.
A pianist Gulshan Annagiyeva known for her special attitude to contemporary music has not only unique playing techniques, but also a rare ability of creating deep artistic images of difficult to "decipher" composition techniques of the first half of the last century. Magic energy and temperament combined with a rational attitude to the form and careful following the composer's thought allow us to include the pianist to the best performers of New Viennese School music and its followers.
The picturesque line of the second part of the musical concert-drama was dedicated to the art of another totalitarian empire, the Soviet Union, but rather to only one episode, a "Bulldozer Exhibition". Avant-garde artists exhibited their paintings in a Moscow park in 1974, showing the existence of unofficial art in the Soviet Union.
Rauf Farkhadov: "The protest was violently suppressed by the authorities and paintings were disfigured by bulldozers. As a result, this handful of painters were automatically declared geniuses by the Western media, and the exhibition itself was firmly included to the history of culture."
The listeners were presented a retrospective of works by the following artists-"martyrs" in the second part of the concert: O. Rabin , V. Vorobyov, Y. Zharkikh, A. Melamid, L. Masterkov, V. Nemukhin, E. Rukhin, V. Sitnikov, I. Choline, B. Steinberg and N. Elskaya.
The musical line was naturally opened by the first dodecaphony composition that appeared in the USSR "Musica stricta" by Andrey Volkonsky. The Russian avant-garde of the second half of the XX century began from that composition. Each composition performed by Annagiyeva was noted by a dramatic sound, individual flair and a tragic nerve. The Scherzo op. 8 by Nicholay Karetnikov died away like the breath of an ocean was replaced by a pretentious and roughly fashioned theme-thesis of the Fifth Sonata by Galina Ustvolskaya. Her music throbbed, screamed and moaned so deeply that suddenly looking at those piercing pictures you realized that it was all about us, gentlemen! It was all about "today", but not "yesterday" or "tomorrow". The concert ended with a composition by Valentin Silvestrov "Music in the Old Style", the absolute realm of light and beauty, as the dawn of a smile of a baby after horrors of the world. As if the door was slightly opened to the elegant world of happiness and love. However, the year of creation of this work is 1973, that put everything in its place, the era of kitsch was then in full swing. And this Alcala harmony turns a nonexistent or lost Remark's paradise, beautiful conscious deception, which can be saved neither by Chagall paintings on the projection screen, nor Mozart piano cadenza.
Prepared by Elena Kravtsun, Press Center of the Festival
Pictures at the concert: