Статья 'Исполнительское искусство П. А. Серебрякова' - журнал 'PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal' - NotaBene.ru
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PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal

Pavel Alexeyevich Serebryakov's Performance Art

Kameko Elena Mikhailovna

Candidate at the Special Piano Department of Saint Petersburg Conservatory named after N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov

190068, Russia, Leningradskaya oblast', g. Saint Petersburg, ul. Glinki, 2, litera A

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Abstract: The research subject of this article is the piano art created by Pavel Alexeyevich Serebryakov, a renowned pianist, pedagogue, artist, and director from Leningrad. The objective of this research is to uncover the many-sided activities of this artist. The author considers the performer’s individual style, repertoire preferences, concerts, music, and social activities while paying special attention to particular facts of the great artist’s life, which influenced his performance path. The article also refers to the reviews written by various musical critics, colleagues, and students, as well as Serebryakov’s own views of his performances drawn from autobiographical notes and interviews. Based on the author’s conversation with P.V. Dmitriev, Serebryakov’s grandson, the article reveals the pianist’s methods of individual work with repertoire and some of the peculiarities of his performance thinking. The scientific novelty of the research lies in the fact that it uses rare, previously unpublished archive materials covering Serebryakov’s performance, music, and social activity, including documents from the Serebryakov’s family archive provided by the pianist’s grandson P.V. Dmitriev; materials, reviews, and newspaper articles kept at the Central State Archive of Literature and Arts (fund 214); and audio recordings from materials in the St. Petersburg Conservatory’s sound library of Serebryakov’s conversations with students. This research material can serve as educational and illustrative resources for both young musicians and instructors in specialized music schools. The Serebryakovs family archive documents provided by Serebryakov’s grandson P.V. Dmitriev Materials, reviews and newspaper articles kept at the Central State Archive of Literature and Arts (fund 214) Audio recordings from the sound library of St.Petersburg Conservatory Materials of Serebryakov’s conversations with students The research material can be used by young musicians, as well as the pedagogues of special music schools for illustrative and educational purposes.  


skill, audience, activity, art, performance, music, pianist, Nikolaev, Serebriakov, artist

It is well known that Pavel Alexeyevich Serebryakov belongs to the representatives of the Russian piano school, which was founded by Anton Rubinstein, Theodor Leshetitzky, Vasily Safonov, and others. Being a worthy successor of its traditions, Serebryakov devoted his entire life and work to the service of art.

Serebryakov never spared his strength when speaking on stage. With a charge of his most powerful energy, he smote the entire audience. Music critics often wrote about this, it was noted by his students, and it can be seen in photographs. "A musician of a pronounced romantic disposition, of a fiery temperament, always gives himself entirely to the feeling" [5], or, "The command of this powerful personality so captured and carried us, even after Emil Gilels, so that we will long remember this event." [4] (see fig. I)

I. P. A. Serebryakov opens the concert season in the BZF on 14.09.1975.

In his declining years, the master retained the same inexhaustible creative enthusiasm. No wonder he was once asked, "What is the secret to your creative longevity?" The answer was simple: "Only in labor. Continuous, persistent. Only in the process of improving skills and constant communication with the audience can you be convinced of the joy that people bring, which stimulates work on themselves, gives strength, confidence." [3]

For Serebryakov, contact with the audience always played a primary role and emerged in the pianist's early years. His creative debut took place at the age of 11. Unfortunately, the harsh trials of life interrupted the novice musician's classes for several years. Serebryakov was forced to earn a living by demonstrating his artistic talent. In his autobiographical notes, Serebryakov recalled: "Then for the first time, I felt an exciting contact with the audience, I felt the satisfaction of knowing that your playing can bring joy to the audience." [15]

A decisive role in Serebryakov's professional development was played by his teacher, Professor Leonid Nikolaev. Over the years of studying in his class, Serebryakov learned his teacher's best traditions. At an early stage of his creative development, he already had a strong, pronounced artistic personality. [7]

Having clearly shown himself at the All-Union Competition and other international competitions, Serebryakov declared himself a young artist-virtuoso. (Serebryakov won the second prize at the First All-Union Competition, an honorary diploma at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, a certificate of participation at the international competition named after Eugène Ysaÿe in Brussels). As noted in reviews, as a young pianist with an ardent temperament, he found it difficult to restrain himself on stage. "This is a very young, 'inexperienced' artist. Brilliant, diverse technique, young, exuberant temperament – that's what Serebryakov has so far. This, of course, is not enough for a modern artist. But it is indisputable that the rest, with Serebryakov's proper work on himself, will come, and he will develop into a first-class, great artist," wrote E. Gal about Serebryakov's performance.[10] At the same time, Serebryakov's ability to influence the audience with the power of his artistic charm was noted.

Closer to the mid-1940s, the artist's performing style changed significantly. As noted by Serebryakov in his autobiography, frequent creative meetings with Konstantin Nikolayevich Igumnov had a noticeable influence on him. This was reflected in the artist's performance style. "The fine sound skills of a wonderful pianist taught me to listen to the musical fabric of the work, comprehending the logic and beauty of intonation, and opening up new aspects of performing art. The influence of Igumnov was caused, in particular, by my new appeal to Tchaikovsky," noted Serebryakov. [15]

In 1943, shortly before his death, Boris Asafyev noted Serebryakov's remarkable creative growth and expressed hope that the musician would find uniqueness, poetry, and integrity of the idea.[2] Years later, Yevgeny Svetlanov called Serebryakov a thoughtful interpreter of Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff [10]. In his article, V. Klin spoke of Serebryakov as one of the world's best performers and the pearl of Russian piano music.[6]

Serebryakov's performing art flourished in the 1950s. Being at the peak of his creative activity, the artist shared his impressions of concert trips around the world: "I happened to visit various countries in Europe, Asia, and America. When I get to a new place, I feel an amazing sense of discovery. Probably, everyone who sets foot on an unfamiliar land believes that he has seen something that no one else has noticed or recognized." [17]

It is important to note that Serebryakov improved his performing skills throughout his life, creating a single concept of the work he interpreted. "Constant listening to other performers, eternal dissatisfaction with what you have achieved, because the more heights you reach, the more you doubt the aesthetic and artistic value of your 'I,'" said Serebryakov in his interview with O. Belogrudov [3]

It is interesting to note that while working on artistic images, Serebryakov "turned to his favorite writer, Shakespeare, for a hint. "In art, as in life, I am attracted to sharp conflicts, violent, dramatic collisions, bright contrasts," he said.[16] (In the 1970s, the newspaper Vecherny Sverdlovsk published an interview with V. Ryabukho and Serebryakov. When asked about his favorite writer, the artist replied: "Shakespeare. I love it for its contrast, passion, and lyricism.")

Serebryakov's talent in the music of Beethoven and Rachmaninoff was especially clearly revealed. (The artist's expressive appearance has similar features to the former of the above). The pianist noted that these two composers were particularly close to him in spirit. "Performing Beethoven, Serebryakov seeks to reveal not so much the heroic-monumental, as the dramatic and tragic beginning of the music. His Beethoven is full of power and dynamism," writes N. Rastopchina. [15, p.39] Undoubtedly, the master had his own individual performing handwriting. As E. Murina notes, Serebryakov's idea was based on the "thematic grain" – as a rule, the initial motif of the work. As a result of the consistent development of the material, the "grain" grew and, reaching the culminating peak, could "light up" the entire audience hall with its bright flame. This was one of Serebryakov's most important performing principles. (From the author's personal conversation with E. Murina). You can hear it in the recordings. (For example, in the finales of the Pathetic and Moonlight sonatas). At the same time, the performer remained faithful to the author's intentions, subtly feeling the stylistic features of the work.

Interpreting Rachmaninoff, Serebryakov, first of all, revealed the deep humanity of this music, creating vivid, but at the same time objective, artistic images. As Tchaikovsky said, the objectivity of an artist is the highest virtuoso quality.[18] In this regard, Serebryakov was extremely virtuosic. "In his performance, simplicity is combined with a careful finishing of details, the ability to sing on the piano with a great inner temperament" [10]. Serebryakov was always open to the public and spoke with them sincerely and truthfully. "Listening to Rachmaninoff's work for me is always a reflection, a continuous search," Serebryakov said.[11]

"Serebryakov's performance art was highly appreciated abroad, noting the poetry and nobility of the sound, the drama, and romance of the transmission of musical masterpieces." (Quote from Euric Nogueira Frans, one of the greatest Brazilian musicologists / / Serebryakov Family Archive). A particularly striking triumph took place in Brazil. A music critic wrote: "I felt such poetic grandeur that I was stunned. And gradually, the work that I had heard many times began to unfold before me, and I realized that it was the hand of Pavel Serebryakov that was needed to convey this greatness and dramatic feeling to convey this power…" [1]

Despite his internal attraction to the music of Beethoven and Rachmaninoff, Serebryakov owned a broad and diverse repertoire. The works of modern Russian composers occupied a prominent place in it. Starting from the early period of his performing activity, Serebryakov played the works of Nadezhda Simonyan, Georgy Sviridov, Ivan Dzerzhinsky, Viktor Voloshinov, Boris Mayzel, Boris Goltz, M. Glukh. (Serebryakov was the first performer of the Sviridov concert, the piano concerto, and a number of pieces by Simonyan, the second concert of Dzerzhinsky, the first interpreter of Dmitri Shostakovich's concert in C minor after the author). It is noteworthy that at the beginning of his creative activity, Serebryakov admitted: "I played a lot then, without thinking about the quality of the music performed, sometimes just wanting to help my comrades by promoting their works" [15, p. 16].

In later years, Serebryakov gave his preference to the music of Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev, and Galina Ustvolskaya. In an interview, the artist named three of his favorite composers, including Shostakovich. The interpretive findings of Serebryakov are also interesting in the works of Igor Stravinsky, who, according to Pavel Dmitriev, succeeded better than others. (For example, the three fragments from the ballet Parsley). It is interesting to pay attention to the very original style of Serebryakov's performance. This is especially pronounced in the slow tempo of the first play, Russian, which is unusual for a modern listener, and some timbral finds in Maslenitsa, as well as dynamic shades that differ from those written out by the author in all three parts of the cycle). "A piano player should not be a slave to his preferences. Not to play the works of any composer means to deliberately deprive yourself, to rob yourself," said Serebryakov. [16]

In addition to the Soviet repertoire, Serebryakov showed an interest in the work of Brazilian composers. As editor of the playbook in figure two below, Serebryakov gave new life to the works of Heitor Villa-Lobos, Mozart Camargo Guarnieri, Oscar Lorenzo Fernández, Cláudio Santoro, and José de Lima Siqueira. When performing these pieces, Serebryakov used the measure of his emotional involvement to inform the life of new music [13] (see fig. II).

Il. Collection of pieces by Brazilian composers for piano / / Ed. comp. P. A Serebryakov. L.: Muzgiz, 1960.

As Igumnov said: "The author's text is only an architectural drawing. Solving and executing it is the role of the performer." [14, c.51]

At the same time, the pianist did not accept the new trends of modern art. In particular, he was alien to the art of the avant-garde and the abstractness of thinking inherent in this direction. As Dmitriev notes, Serebryakov was a supporter of the creators of objective images. (From the author's personal conversation with Dmitriev). "Therefore, the compositions he performed, especially in later years, were played by him so easily, with such confidence in them and his artistic correctness. To him, it seemed that for another hundred years, a pianist would play them. For another hundred years, they would be the most natural speech for him on the stage." [13, c.79]

In his later years, Serebryakov's distinctive performance feature was the integrity of the statement and the huge performance scale. The mature artist was not interested in the jewelry finishing of details, virtuoso brilliance, and external effects on the stage. While studying on the piano, Serebryakov never worked on short fragments. Trying to feel a single performing breath, the musician comprehended the philosophical depth of the composition. He shared his original performance solutions with his students. (This is discussed in more detail by the author in the article Pedagogical Principles of P. A. Serebryakov).

Concert revelations took place in the last years of Serebryakov's work. Serebryakov's deep and heartfelt playing did not leave anyone feeling indifferent. Thus, Atanas Kurtev (pianist, professor at the Sofia Conservatory, Candidate of Art History, student of Serebryakov) recalled: "Often after his concerts, listeners left with tears in their eyes. The great artist unfolded his plans step by step, imperceptibly conducting them through the chain of newly emerging life situations. And when it was necessary – by directly connecting the creative imagination, free from all kinds of speculation. Without trying to impose a previously and thoroughly prepared scenario onto the listener, he created deliciously integral pictures of reality on a panoramic scale." [7] (fig. III)

IlI. P. A. Serebryakov plays in the BZF, 1970s

In conclusion, I note that today, thanks to some preserved recordings, one can judge Pavel Alexeyevich Serebryakov's pianism and compare his interpretations with other outstanding masters. Although the recordings only reflect the richness and depth of his interpretations, one main thing can be noted: the piano art of Serebryakov is undoubtedly valuable and can serve as a lesson of true mastery for the modern generation of musicians.

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