The interview was prepared by Irina Chepaykina
Special for globaloverviewmagazine.com
Once again about geniuses
"Music is the universal language of mankind," -said once American poet and
translator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), but can language of
creators of the past bring countries and nations closer together? Denis
Andreevich von Meck, founder and President of the Nadezhda von Meck
International Charitable Foundation, tells us about symbols of Russian classical
music as examples of cultural diplomacy.
- There are many definitions of cultural diplomacy. What does this concept mean
for you personally?
- From my point of view, cultural diplomacy is an activity that helps to establish
relations between representatives of different countries and nationalities through
intercultural dialogue as well as knowledge exchange in the field of literature,
music, cinema and theater. In that case persons of culture and art become
representatives of their country - not professional diplomats.
- Can great creators of the past help modern nations better understand and get to
know each other?
- I think anything that brings people together can be a good starting point. Music
has some advantages over literature and poetry since it does not require translation.
Any soloist or orchestra can be heard not only on the stage of a concert hall, but
also in a high–quality recording and one can easily share his or her opinion about
the performance after hearing, including with music lovers from other countries. It
is quite easy to move from music and culture topics to historical facts or even
everyday life – one just need a desire to hear the conversation partner.
- On the 11 th of October you told the guests of the Grand Hall of the Moscow
Conservatory about intertwining destinies of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.
What, in your opinion, unites these composers besides their homeland and
brilliant talent? Why did their names become musical symbols of Russia?
- Your question contains a statement which is completely in line with my personal
and public opinion. The music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Sergei Vasilyevich
Rachmaninoff is distinguished by exceptional sincerity and lyricism. Remember
how the Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30 by Rachmaninoff and Concerto
No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra in B-flat Minor, Op. 23 by Tchaikovsky sounded on
the stage of the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory … It turned out to be very
interesting to explore the intertwining of personal and musical destinies of the two
composers and I hope to make many more discoveries along the way!
- I have no doubt that the performance of the Symphony Orchestra of the State
Philharmonic of the Altai Territory conducted by Dmitry Luzin as well as
wonderful pianists, laureates of international competitions Alexander
Lubyantsev and Elena Drozdova will remain in the memory of listeners for a
long time…Denis Andreevich, why do you think Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff
are dear to representatives of different mentalities and nationalities?
- Probably, everyone will answer this question in his or her own way. It seems to
me that there is so much warmth, cordiality and creation in their music that human
heart simply cannot help responding to its beauty. All this is valuable and
sometimes vital for modern people, regardless of mentality, temperament and
nationality. And of course, it is always a joy for a Russian person to hear quotes
from the musical folklore of his or her native country in classical melodies. In
addition, descendants of Russian emigrants in the second and third generation can
consider "news" from the motherland, including music, to be simply priceless. I
think that music can be called an instrument of cultural diplomacy in this context
- Do you plan to continue working on the topic of cultural (musical) diplomacy
on the example of P. I. Tchaikovsky and S. V. Rachmaninoff in terms of
educational activities of the Nadezhda von Meck International Charitable
Foundation? If so, in which format?
- Of course, I will try to use every opportunity to tell the audience about life ways
and works of the two geniuses of Russian music. I hope this topic will arouse
interest not only in various cities and regions of Russia, but also in Kazakhstan,
where I plan to give several lectures in the twenties of October.
- Which books, articles and films would you recommend to those who want to
learn more about the composers themselves and therefore better understand
- There are about 200 biographies of the most performed composer in the world –
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. I would like to recommend the readers a monograph
"Tchaikovsky: a brief sketch of life and work" written by an outstanding
musicologist Ekaterina Alexandrovna Ruchevskaya; works of a famous Russian
musicologist, an employee of the Moscow Conservatory and the State Institute of
Art Studies Nadezhda Vasilyevna Tumanina; books and articles written by a Soviet
musicologist, Doctor of Art History, Professor Elena Mikhailovna Orlova as well
as a biography "Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky" and a unique book "Tchaikovsky’s
Spiritual Journey" by a senior researcher at the Tchaikovsky House Museum in
Klin, Honored Worker of Culture of the Moscow Region Galina Stepanovna Sizko.
In my opinion, these works deserve attention primarily because they are based on
historical facts and are distinguished by respect for private life of the genius who
was an exceptionally modest and delicate person himself. As for feature films, so I
really like and often mention in my public speeches a movie called "Tchaikovsky"
directed by Igor Talankin. This film is remarkable also due to a constellation of
outstanding actors: Innokenty Smoktunovsky, Antonina Shuranova, Vladislav
Strzhelchik, Evgeny Leonov, Alla Demidova ... Besides, I like a film called "The
Third Youth" (fr. La Nuit des adieux — "The Night of Farewell", 1965) dedicated
to creative partnership of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and a French dancer,
choreographer Marius Petipa. It is interesting that the Frenchman understood
Russia very deeply, not least with the help of the most famous Russian composer.
As for contemporary documentary works, so I was lucky to participate in the
filming of a television movie called "Tchaikovsky. To my best friend" (https://von-
meck.org/film-2 ) in a historical place - the city estate of E. I. Vasilchikova - S. A.
Obolensky - N.F. von Meck on Gogolevsky boulevard where the Russian Central
Chess House is located nowadays. The film attracted people interested in history
and art so much that I managed to find volunteers who translated it into English,
Italian, Spanish, Bulgarian, Serbian and Japanese, and the titles in Chinese and
German will be ready soon. By the way, modern technologies can identify the
country where a video hosting 1 visitor lives automatically and offer him or her
titles in the appropriate language.
I would advise those who want to learn more about the personality, life and work
of Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff to pay attention to a collection called
"Memories about Rachmaninoff" in two volumes edited by Zaruya Apetovna
Apetyan (Moscow: Music, 1988) as well as a book called "Rachmaninoff: a
chronicle of life and work" written by Doctor of Art Studies Vera Borisovna
Valkova (Tambov: The Museum-estate of Sergei Rachmaninoff «Ivanovka»,
1 A web service that allows users to download and watch videos in a browser, for example, with a special player.
- Denis Andreevich, thank you for continuing conversation about the two
Russian geniuses. I want to believe that music will always be not only the
universal language of mankind, but also a bridge between countries and