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The 5th  Qara Qarayev  international                                                            
contemporary music  Festival          Baku, Azerbaijan, 14-19 April 2013


"Organ +"
Interview with a Russian organist and musicologist Marianna Vysotskaya


Marianna Vysotskaya, a Moscow organist, a winner of the first prize of Interregional Supreme Organ Competition in Luxembourg played a concert within the Festival in the Organ and Chamber Music Hall (former Deutsche Kirche) on April 17. The program entitled "Organ +" included music by Sofia Gubaidulina and Edison Denisov, Qara Qarayev and Jalal Abbasov, Victor Ekimovsky and Vladimir Runchak. The concert was accompanied by other Baku musicians: a cellist Eyyub Aliyev was the soloist in the play by Sofia Gubaidulina "In croce", a violinist Osman Eyyublu and a guitarist Rovshan Mammadov performed with organ a composition by Edison Denisov "In Deo speravit cor meum".

Before the concert I interviewed Marianna Vysotskaya.

Марианна Высоцкая

— Were there any organ concerts within the Qara Qarayev Festival?
— No, this is the first experience.
— What was the reason for such project this year?
— Here appeared a Hall and a good organ, which did not exist before. There was an organ in the Kirche, but he was in such a bad condition that it was impossible to be used in a concert. Furthermore it was located upstairs on the balcony. Today, after the renovation, there is a new organ.
— Namely which one?
— The organ of a Czech organ building firm Rieger-Kloss. There is one of the big organs of this Firm Moscow in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall.
— How do you assess the instrument, its sound capabilities?
— It has excellent features, however, it is a little bit "sick" now because there must always be an organ master, but obviously, there is no such a master in Baku. He was invited from Riga, and he is expected to come in a couple of days.
— What is the situation with organ music in Baku in general? Is the local public familiar with this genre?
— The local public has long been familiar with the organ music, in fact they have heard organ before in the Kirche not only during the liturgy. Moreover, there is a great organ of a German company Hermann Eule with a mechanical tracker in the conservatory, where there is an organ class and excellent teachers such as Taira Yakubova and Rasima Babayeva.
— What was your idea of choosing the compositions for this concert?
— We made a program together with the artistic director of the Festival Faradzh Karayev. In a short program of 50 minutes it was necessary to present stylistically different music of the Post-Soviet space. As a result we have chosen three preludes by Qara Qaraev and compositions of the participants of the festival: the chairman of the Russian Association of Contemporary Music Victor Ekimovsky, Ukrainian composer Vladimir Runchak and Azerbaijani composer Jalal Abbasov.
Марианна Высоцкая— Why is there none composition of a West-European repertoire in the program?
— I did not want to make eclecticism, which would inevitably arise if at least one Western composition were included to the program. But when you play two or three European plays, then something would fall out from what had to be performed. Therefore, we focused on the repertoire of composers of the Soviet and Post-Soviet space.
— The names in the program are very different. Whose compositions are the most organ-oriented from your view point?
— It is first of all "In Croce" by Sofia Gubaidulina. Her composition is written really "organic" and is very convenient. She knows and understands what can be done by an organ avoiding excessive tools. At the same time Gubaidulina uses modern techniques such as moving clusters and the effect of sound distortion when after turning off the organ engine the air is gradually leaves pipes.
— This piece is written for cello and organ and has a symbolic title "On the Cross". How deep is it as a program composition?
— All intonationality is imbued with motive, which in the world musical culture is associated with the "Cross theme", and the play is built on it. An interesting and almost a visual image is created closer to the end of the play, when the melodic lines of organ and cello drift apart in different directions: they approach each other, then they are being crossed, and cello rises into the upper register symbolizing the ascension into heaven, and the organ descends into the abyss ... The acoustic effect of turning off the organ's motor is used in this passage: it must have the effect of a long "exhalation" as if soul parts the body. This technique, which has become very popular with composers and now everyone thinks it is necessary to include it in his work, is used highly appropriate and perfectly correlated with the idea of the crucifixion. Unfortunately, this organ can not produce this effect as the instrument has an electrical tracker, so when you turn off the motor the sound disappears immediately. The desired effect can be obtained only with a mechanical organ tracker. We had to adapt and to simulate the desired effect with some performing tricks.
— Were there are any difficulties with the composition by Edison Denisov?
— The most difficult part in this play, written for unusual ensemble - organ, violin (flute) and guitar, was to get a good sound balance and above all not to drown the delicate guitar, which party consisted of short phrases and harmonics. Taking into account the special church acoustics of our stage floor, it was not easy to achieve the effect of a "perfect sound", when all voices are heard equally well. Another problem was the very feature of ensemble music playing associated with accentuated freedom of a musical material presentation (a kind of aleatorics). The barlines are only on the first page, and then they do not appear, so each of the ensemble members had to carefully listen to each other, weaving their voices in the interchange of counterpoint melodic lines. The composition is full of baroque allusions of all kinds: the scattered diatonic triads and the BACH theme, which appears like a vision at the end of a play in a quite "incorporeal" sound.
— What are other plays of your program interesting for?
— The play by Victor Ekimovsky also written in a very organ way. There are typical techniques of baroque music, primarily terraced dynamics without crescendo and diminuendo, very characteristic of that age. Not all bodies have so-called channels, which allow to adjust dynamics infinitely. So when composers write for the organ complex and gradually modulating dynamic nuances, in particular organ registration this often simply can not be heard. The composition by Vladimir Runchak is likely written for the specific instrument and acoustics, because it uses a huge amount of audio techniques, often beyond the organ specificity and can not be played on any organ.
— Is a "Prelude, Fugue and Passacaglia" by Qara Qarayev an original organ composition?
— No, it has been arranged. Faradzh Karayev made a transcription for organ of three plays from the fourth book of "24 Preludes for Piano" cycle. This work has been done specifically for the Festival.
— How much has the plays' texture changed? — Not much. The specificity of the instrument was taken into account: there were added obligate voices, harmonic detentions and a line of pedals was constructed. The plays sound different due to a new registration and spatial texture "extention".
— The "Postlude" by Jalal Abbasov is dedicated to the memory of Qara Qarayev. What is interesting about it?
— This is a play of a commemorational character. It is interesting because unlike all previous plays, it has a quote: a fragment from chorale prelude by J.S. Bach "Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der von uns", which sounds at the end of the play as the epilogue. The dissonant sounds intrude into the Bach's music, associated with an extreme expression of sorrow and weeping for a departed person.

We sincerely hope that the idea of organ concerts of contemporary music will be continued, and many other wonderful organ works of XX and XXI centuries will be presented on the Festival.

Interview prepared by Natalia Surnina, Press Center of the Festival

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