The incredibly magnificent "Gaspard de
la Nuit" (1908) by the outstanding French composer Maurice Ravel
(1875 - 1937) is the pearl of his creations. Ravel referred to the poems from "Gaspard
de la Nuit" as for being "masterly transcendent". This cycle is the attainment
of the XXth century but calls upon the romantic pianism. Technique, Liszt's
concert spirit, literary program and the theme of hallucination return us to the
romantic era. "That Gaspard cost me devilish efforts because the author of the
verses was a real devil" (from Ravel's letter to Mrs. Godebskaya, 17th of July
The author in question is the French
dramatist and poet Aloysius Bertrand and his cycle of free verses "Gaspard de la
Nuit". Ravel used only three poems. "Ondine" is a fantastic creature from
the water, the magic mermaid. "Le Gibet" is the horrifying night vision
with chilling sounds (a terrible knell, a groan of the hanged man, a wail of the
wind). Finally "Scarbo" is a wicked spirit of the night, a grotesque
dwarf "dropped from witch's distaff spindle", an ominous grimace. Ravel ignores
plotline and demonstrates an abstract notion about something weird.
Ravel's favorite character of the water
appears in the first poem. Water flows and constant change creates an illusion
which hides a phantom of the water-nymph in the depths. The music narration
flourishes, "overflows the banks" and then Ondine disappears, "dissolves in
The dramatic tension in "Le Gibet" is
reached without any delivery. According to the composer the piece "goes
monotonously and is deterrent by the simplicity movement". The empty "lifeless"
ninth chords are a frightful oscillation, a ghostly chime, a stupefied "far -
"Scarbo" is an exceptional masterpiece, one
of the most difficult in the world of piano literature. It is widely known that
composing a piece more complex than Balakirev's "Islamey" is an enormous
creative task. This is a type of "devilish scherzo which leads its history from
different "infernal" pieces of the romantic period” (I. Martinov).
Picturesqueness is nearly visible, new and original methods are exactly
selected. Suddenly long increase "collapses", petty technique turns into massive
chords. But orbed melodic phrases which appear again are scattered by prickly
seconds, Scarbo evanesces.
Emmanuel Durlet (Antwerp/
Belgium 1893-1977) was a pupil of Frans Lenaerts at the Royal Flemish
Conservatoire of Music in Antwerp. He obtained his degree for piano with the
highest honours at the early age of 16. To improve his technique and
interpretation style, he set off for Vienna (April 1912 - June 1914) to study
under the world famous pianist and composer Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938) at the
Meisterschule fur Klavier of the Kaiserliche Akademie fur Musik.
In 1918, Emmanuel Durlet embarked on a
career as an unrivalled performer. One of his most brilliant achievements was
the performance (by heart) of Beethoven's 32 sonatas, spread over ten recitals
in a period of two months.
In 1920 he was appointed professor of piano
classes for the higher grades at the Royal Flemish Conservatoire of Music in
Antwerp. He held this function for 39 years. In 1933 Emmanuel Durlet started to
perform his own compositions. This oeuvre comprises more than 130 works for
piano, a concerto for piano and orchestra, a concerto for violin and orchestra,
works for chamber music and more than 200 works of the Flemish harpsichordists
of the 18th century, re-written for the piano.
Durlet prefers to give his work evocative
titles. Descriptive and programmatic elements are a constant in his entire
oeuvre. The organic integration of various piano techniques and the
transformation of those brilliant techniques into an expressive and meaningful
pianistic language, together with a highly individualistic melody and a rich
and, at times, surprising harmony give the compositions a very personal and
Emmanuel Durlet composed "Heights" (1943) for a cousin who owned a
private plane. However, he had never succeeded in persuading the composer, who
suffered from vertigo, to accompany him on one of his flights. By way of apology
for repeatedly declining his invitation Durlet composed "Heights" in which the
vastness of the cosmos is disturbed by the feeling of constriction which is
symptomatic of vertigo.
"The Idol with the mocking Smile" (1943) differs from most of Durlet's
other pieces. He departs from our medieval past, which is his usual source of
inspiration, and draws on a certain exoticism, rooted in a very particular
All Soul's Day flowers… The refined
composition "Chrysanthemums" (1935) incorporates the flowing features of
the "Dies irae, Dies illa". In contrast a merry wind waltzes through the rampant
greenery of the peaceful final resting place.
The great Russian composer, Sergey
Rachmaninov (1873-1943), believed that the early nineteen hundreds were the
happiest period of his life. At that time he composed the following pieces:
Piano Concerto no. 2; Suite for two pianos op. 17; romances op. 21; cantata
"Spring"; Variations on the theme by Chopin; the opera "Stingy Knight" and many
other works. Two series of Rachmaninov's preludes, op. 23 and op. 32 (1903,
1910), were supposed to make up one cycle together with the Prelude in C sharp
minor, op. 3. To achieve this goal each piece was written in one of the 24
tonalities. A number of critics believe the idea was adopted from Frederic
Chopin, who created his famous preludes 70 years previously. The 10 preludes op.
23 are unique in their form and music content. As the cycle grows a common
tendency "from darkness to light" takes place. This was transferred from his
second piano concerto. Five dramatic pieces are interlaced with light tones.
Within the first preludes a sharp image contrast is emphasized, the same cannot
be said of the other ones.
The elegiac thoughtful first F sharp minor
prelude appears to have the features of folk songs and the image of a lonely
soul in lyric landscapes. The monumental picture of a spontaneous mass ecstasy
in the second prelude B flat major gains the features of tense intonations of
the third piece in D minor. This prelude can undoubtedly be referred to as a
romantic "dance macabre". The fourth prelude in D major, depicts Russia with its
vast breath, deep soul, embroidered songs. In Repin's opinion it was "a lake in
Russian spring full-water". The fifth prelude (G minor) "alla Marcia" gained
strong popularity. "I always had an awful feeling when Rachmaninov played this
prelude. The beginning of his playing had a dreadful calmness… Then crescendo
resulted in tremendous power, it seemed to be a flow of sounds that made us
shiver and covered everything around us with strength and indignation" (from the
Zoya Pribytkova's memoirs). A stunning purity of lyric feelings in the sixth E
flat major prelude connects it with the section of the second part of the second
concerto. The seventh dramatic prelude in C minor is written in improvisation
genre. The A flat major eighth bears the narrative features of the beginning.
The spring mood of this prelude transforms into a dull rustle of the wind in the
ninth prelude in E flat minor. The cycle finishes with the tenth G flat major
prelude full of light lyric feelings, poetry of a modest nature.
Olga Kotlyarova was born in Moscow,
Russia. She started to learn piano when she was four. She received her first
musical education at the Uspensky Special Music School under the Tashkent
Conservatory with N. Mendelssohn and afterwards at the Special Music School
under the Voronezh Art Academy with Professor A. Dubovik. During her studies the
young pianist was interested in different music styles. She graduated from the
St. Petersburg State Conservatory with the highest honours as a pianist in the
class of Professor E. Murina, as an organist in the class of Honoured Artist,
Professor T. Tchausova and as a harpsichordist in the class of the Doctor of
Musicology, Professor I. Rosanoff. Since 2006 she has been studying at the
postgraduate of the St. Petersburg State Conservatory (the piano class of the
head of piano department, People’s Artist of Russia, Professor E. Murina).
She won prizes of the following
competitions: the first prize at the National Piano Competition in Memory of
Pavel Serebryakov (Volgograd, 1996), the second prize at the Chamber Music
Competition in Memory of Ludwig van Beethoven (St.-Petersburg, 2000), the first
prize at the Grant Competition "The Muses of St. Petersburg" (St.-Petersburg,
2003), the first and the second prizes at the International Competition "Hopes,
talents, masters" as a pianist and an organist (Bulgaria, 2003), the special
prize "The Hope of Mother Country" at the International Organ Competition in
Memory of M. Tariverdiev (Kaliningrad, 2003), the first prize at the Emmanuel
Durlet International Piano Competition (Belgium, 2005) and the second prize at
the International Competition "Austria Barock Akademie" as an organist and a
harpsichordist (Austria, 2005).
She performed with numerous orchestras
under baton of such conductors as S. Skripka (Moscow), E. Serov (Volgograd), A.
Gura (Voronezh), A. Shteinluht (Saint-Petersburg), A. Anisimov (France), M.
KaLok (Australia) and E. Korkmaz (Turkey). She is also interested in
contemporary music. She became a first performer of pieces by F. Huber (Switserland),
Sh. Noa (Israel), V. Goryanin (Russia) and others.
The pianist regularly gives solo recitals in
Russia and abroad. She played at such famous concert halls as Concertgebouw in
Amsterdam, deSingel in Antwerp, Riga Dome in Riga, the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall
in Moscow and the Philharmonic Halls in St. Petersburg.
Since 2007 Olga Kotlyarova is a member of
the "Union of Concert Artists of Russia" and the soloist of