From song to silence, lute to Moog, the emotions, the artistic imagery and the “philos” of our souls are effectively and efficiently encoded in the archaic cipher we call music. Music has duly noted the soul of humanity from his times of fires in caves to his furies in computers. Great music literally is, in my estimation, the most efficient transmitter and effective preservationist of its composer’s living consciousness. My new series of “conscious recordings”, the medium of that very important message, is entitled: “Music as Living Consciousness.”. The second volume of this series presents masterworks from 4 composers. Its centerpiece is Liszt’s remarkably intimate and Confessional Self-Portrait, the Sonata in B minor. There are also Two Beethoven sonatas, (a tribute to the composer’s 250th Birthday), Mozart’s Fantasy and Rachmaninov’s Elegy. The latter works “bridge” the timeline from Beethoven’s era to its predecessor, and Liszt’s era to Rachmaninov’s.
The Mozart Fantasy incorporates traditional elements of his personality – Viennese concepts of “hero”, fate, entreaty, confusion, and his boisterous happy endings. Transmitting an equal treasure of personality, the depth of composedly conscious material of the two Beethoven Sonatas in F major and D major, opus 10, elevates their form to that of the nearly symphonic.
The Finale of the F Major Sonata is particularly rich in content, offering up a delightfully playful feast full of fun and good humor. The composer’s flair for the Dramatic clearly flourishes in the D Major Sonata’s second movement, largo e mesto, where Beethoven confesses his dire moral state at the time. The ever elegant, playful finale, restorative of his humor, relegates these pages to the very best of his great Legacy.
Liszt’s Sonata in B minor is a philosophical and dramatic triumph bringing an even more exciting and refined affirmation of my intent in these volumes – to offer listeners a truly aware presentation of the conscious material that IS the music, the stuff of soul. This is undoubtedly the most philosophically complex piano composition ever conceived. Like the two compositions presented in the first volume of our project – the “Symphonic Etudes” of Schumann and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures At An Exhibition” – this Sonata contains the philosophical, metaphysical worldview; the composer’s ideological “self-portrait”. Within such writings, their best Opuses, composers manage to express “their whole Selves”, their consciousness (and subconsciousness), at the peak of their vitality and creative maturity, and capture them within music.
The Sonata in B minor is densely saturated and allied with European history and culture, covering the panoply of themes central to understanding the entire modern history of our (Christian) era. In addition, Liszt compacts and includes these elements, narrating an all-inclusive map to the early biblical stories, the origins of man, civilization, and the Creator of Creation. The intriguing and complex Sonata’s opening considers the uneasy ferment of humanity’s fall from grace – the insidious seduction of Eve by the Satanic Snake, and the ejection of humanity from Eden. According to Liszt himself the first measures of the work represent this biblical scene, establishing the philosophical and dramatic foundations of the work’s entire narrative – “The fallen man” with his lost forever harmony, reflecting his inability to “heal his fate”.
It’s no secret that Milton’s “Paradise Lost” inspired the Sonata’s creation. Once a beloved woman who played a key role in Liszt’s private life exposed him to the complex poem, Liszt was smitten – the composer’s deeply emotional reaction to the narrative left an indelible impression that gave rise to an avalanche of thoughts and feelings that he poured out in his Sonata; it evolved into a philosophical self-portrait, an ideological “statement” – a general picture of his consciousness during a critical period in his life as he grew into maturity. Liszt passionately desired to find spiritual harmony in the “hell” of contradictions that were tearing him apart – the dramatic dualism of two strong but conflicting feelings: passionate love for a woman vs endless devotion to Christ and Faith.
One after another, Liszt draws the listener into his mad kaleidoscope of musical philosophical images-symbols of the theme of the fall of man: the mastery of the “Devil” in his soul, leading to pride, vanity, unrestrained “earthly pleasures”, sensual love, cruelty, and, finally, to the climax of the descent – the murder of a person, where all these philosophical themes are tinged with biblical allegory, from the images of Adam and Eve to Abel and Cain.
The breadth of cultural and historical coverage of the topics touched upon in Liszt’s Sonata philosophical narrative is striking: it touches upon the very historical foundations that root European christianity; from the earliest Gregorian chants, on which the main themes of the Sonata’s music are based, (in particular the theme of “Faith” (“Grandioso”) includes the most important Christian symbol – the Battle with the Huns of the fifth century AD. – the motives of which are reflected in the final section’s theme, following the “fugato” section’s “scene” of being possessed by the Devil.
The figure of Christ, defining Liszt’s consciousness, appears in the middle part of the story, after reaching the peak of cruelty and orgy of uncontrollable “earthly passions”. The tragic and defining moment of the evangelical drama are the scenes of the Crucifixion and the Last Word of Christ (Recitativo). Liszt deliberately times this musical appearance of the figure of Christ just at the moment violence has peaked in the end of the exposition (the “conditional first part”) to symbolize the author’s belief that, only through faith in Christ, and reverently keeping alive the image of His sacrifice, can one find the path to salvation. This is the defining thought of the consciousness within any deeply religious Christian. The huge variety of symbols, philosophical themes and biblical conflicts constitute an integral and passionate image of Liszt the man, himself, thus explaining his “Self” by demonstrating the “cultural and emotional content” of his consciousness, and its “religious and philosophical”, emotional “composition”.
This music is the true passionate romantic confession of a deeply emotional, religious European philosopher of the mid-nineteenth century. Thus, the sonata is not only an amazing piece of music, containing the personal experience of an extraordinary thinker, but also a unique document that captures in sounds the living consciousness (!) Of a highly intellectual Christian philosopher from the heyday of nineteenth century European romanticism.
Liszt self-identifies as a Christian humanist, remaining on the “Good” side, with Christ in his heart, differentiating evil from good at the end of the Sonata. First there is the decisive battle between Good and Evil, expressed in a virtuosic musical code symbolizing “Armageddon”. Next, as the Sonata moves towards its conclusion, comes a serene atmosphere signifying the final victory of Good over Evil; its theme of Faith is based on the ancient Gregorian chant “Crux Fidelis”, symbolizing the victory of Christ over the powers of darkness.
Liszt used the very last note of the Sonata to indicate the complete separation of the Good forces from that of the Evil coexisting within his soul (and the universe). In this gigantic fresco, Liszt mirrors the microcosm of his own life-struggle, to that of the macrocosm of human life and destiny; he raises and relates his personal philosophical and emotional problems to the general existential issues that still concern us to this day. This relevant fact will keep the sonata “contemporary” to humanity until people elevate their character from “Paradise Lost” – what Liszt yearns and cries for through this music.
Our Second volume concludes with Rachmaninov’s Elegy, an essay full of nostalgia, youthful feelings, hopes and love. His music provides listeners a conscious narrative of these emotions for the rest of his life.
Andrei Gavrilov © 2021
Literary edited by Todd Harris.
Andrei Gavrilov: He was born in Moscow in 1955 in an artistic family. His father Vladimir Gavrilov was a well known Russian artist, while his mother was a prominent pianist of the school of Heinrich Neuhaus. After being taught piano by his mother, Gavrilov graduated from Central Music School at Moscow State Conservatory in 1973 with Professor Tatiana Kestner. Later in the same year, he entered Moscow Conservatory where he studied in the class of Professor Lev Naumov. In 1974, at the age of 18, Andrei Gavrilov won first prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition and in the same year made a triumphant international debut at the Salzburg Festival when he was substituting for Sviatoslav Richter. Since then he has enjoyed an impressive international career which included performances with the world's greatest orchestras. He made his London debut in 1976 with Paavo Berglund and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the Royal Festival Hall. In 1978 he performed with the Berlin Philharmonic in a European concert tour that included 30 performances. By 1980 he had performed in all of the major cultural centers in the world. In 1984, Andrei Gavrilov made a triumphant return to the British concert platform, after a few years of politically enforced absence, giving recitals at the Barbican and the Royal Festival Hall. During that period of his life, he successfully petitioned Mikhail Gorbachev for his freedom, and became the first Soviet artist to be granted permission to stay in the West without having to file for political asylum. Following his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985, Andrei Gavrilov was proclaimed "a major artist" by The New York Times' Donal Henahan. He has since performed with orchestras in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia, Montreal, Toronto, London, Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Moscow, St-Petersburg and many other major orchestras with conductors including Abbado, Haitink, Muti, Ozawa, Svetlanov, Tennstedt, Rattle and Neville Mariner among numerous others. Between 1976 and 1990, Andrei Gavrilov was an exclusive artist with EMI, winning several international prizes including the Gramophone award in 1979, Deutscher Schallplattenpreis in 1981, Grand Prix International du Disque de L'Academie Charles Crois in 1985 and 1986, and International Record Critics Award (IRCA) in 1985. In 1998 Andrei Gavrilov was included in Philips' "Great Pianists of the Twentieth Century" collection. His achievements also include the International Accademia Musicale Chigiana Prize assigned to him in 1989 when the jury of music critics proclaimed him “the greatest pianist of the world”.
In October 1990 Andrei Gavrilov signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon. That contract resulted in acclaimed recordings of him performing Chopin, Prokofiev, Schubert, Bach and Grieg.
In 1994 – 2001, Andrei Gavrilov took a 7 years long pause during which he performed almost no concerts devoting his time to the studies of philosophy and religion as well as to searching for new ideas and new approaches to music. In 2001 he made his triumphant comeback starting with his tour to Russia where he played four piano concertos in one evening at the Moscow Conservatory. Since then he has been performing more and more regularly around the world with greater success than ever. In 2008 Gavrilov came back for a concert to the United States. In 2009 he made a world tour marked with enormous success. In February 2010 he was invited to the Vienna Philharmonic Golden Hall to play four concertos in a row after a 14 years long break. The concerts were received with great critical acclaim.In 2013 Andrei Gavrilov completed writing his three-volume autobiography the first volume of which was published in Russian and German in March and April 2014 respectively. In December 2016 it was also published in English. The book was accompanied with his new recording of Chopin Nocturnes, which was made specially to be included in this book.
In April 2013 Andrei Gavrilov realized his long time dream of conducting all piano concertos from the piano himself. He performed a concert in Belgrade playing and conducting three romantic concertos in one evening with a full symphony orchestra. Since that year he plays and conducts full symphony orchestras all over the world with great success.
Andrei Gavrilov is planning to publish series of CD / DVD recordings that will include his performances of Schumann, Liszt, Beethoven, Chopin, Bach.
Franz Liszt: (b Raiding, (Doborján), 22 Oct 1811; d Bayreuth, 31 July 1886). Hungarian composer, pianist and teacher. He was one of the leaders of the Romantic movement in music. In his compositions he developed new methods, both imaginative and technical, which left their mark upon his forward-looking contemporaries and anticipated some 20th-century ideas and procedures; he also evolved the method of ‘transformation of themes’ as part of his revolution in form, made radical experiments in harmony and invented the symphonic poem for orchestra. As the greatest piano virtuoso of his time, he used his sensational technique and captivating concert personality not only for personal effect but to spread, through his transcriptions, knowledge of other composers’ music. As a conductor and teacher, especially at Weimar, he made himself the most influential figure of the New German School dedicated to progress in music. His unremitting championship of Wagner and Berlioz helped these composers achieve a wider European fame. Equally important was his unrivalled commitment to preserving and promoting the best of the past, including Bach, Handel, Schubert, Weber and above all Beethoven; his performances of such works as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Hammerklavier Sonata created new audiences for music hitherto regarded as incomprehensible. The seeming contradictions in his personal life – a strong religious impulse mingled with a love of worldly sensation – were resolved by him with difficulty. Yet the vast amount of new biographical information makes the unthinking view of him as ‘half gypsy, half priest’ impossible to sustain. He contained in his character more of the ideals and aspirations of the 19th century than any other major musician.
Profile from The New Grove dictionary of Music and Musicians
Ludwig van Beethoven: (b Bonn, bap. 17 Dec 1770; d Vienna, 26 March 1827). German composer. His early achievements, as composer and performer, show him to be extending the Viennese Classical tradition that he had inherited from Mozart and Haydn. As personal affliction – deafness, and the inability to enter into happy personal relationships – loomed larger, he began to compose in an increasingly individual musical style, and at the end of his life he wrote his most sublime and profound works. From his success at combining tradition and exploration and personal expression, he came to be regarded as the dominant musical figure of the 19th century, and scarcely any significant composer since his time has escaped his influence or failed to acknowledge it. For the respect his works have commanded of musicians, and the popularity they have enjoyed among wider audiences, he is probably the most admired composer in the history of Western music.
Sergey Rachmaninov: (b Oneg, 20 March/1 April 1873; d Beverly Hills, CA, 28 March 1943). Russian composer, pianist and conductor. He was one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, the last great representative of Russian late Romanticism. The influences of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and other Russian composers soon gave way to a thoroughly personal idiom, with a pronounced lyrical quality, expressive breadth, structural ingenuity and a palette of rich, distinctive orchestral colours.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: (b Salzburg, 27 Jan 1756; d Vienna, 5 Dec 1791). Austrian composer, son of Leopold Mozart. His style essentially represents a synthesis of many different elements, which coalesced in his Viennese years, from 1781 on, into an idiom now regarded as a peak of Viennese Classicism. The mature music, distinguished by its melodic beauty, its formal elegance and its richness of harmony and texture, is deeply coloured by Italian opera though also rooted in Austrian and south German instrumental traditions. Unlike Haydn, his senior by 24 years, and Beethoven, his junior by 15, he excelled in every medium current in his time. He may thus be regarded as the most universal composer in the history of Western music.