The Moscow International House of Music, as well as all theatres and concert halls in the world, is silent today. The poster is closed until 11 April, and the concerts have been cancelled or postponed to other dates. Vladimir Spivakov, president of the House of Music, is on self-isolation, but has already opened the online festival «Vladimir Spivakov invites… to the screen» on 24 March. The festival will last as long as the cultural life of the country is only possible in online format. Vladimir Spivakov told the Rossiyskaya Gazeta columnist about what is happening in the life of the House of Music now.
Musicians from all over the world perform online today, play in empty halls and participate in flash mobs. You have collected a festival of video recordings. How do you perceive this whole situation?
Vladimir Spivakov: As for the festival, I myself was surprised at how many concerts we have recorded in recent years with the Moscow Virtuosi and the National Philharmonic Orchestra, with the House of Music, with the children of my foundation. There are iconic things there for me that will be of interest to musicians and our entire audience. As for what is happening, of course, it is difficult for us now – both morally and psychologically. I’m used to going to the House of Music every morning at nine o’clock and rehearsing with orchestras, solving various issues and studying. My working day usually ended at 10 pm, so it’s hard for me to get used to a different rhythm in life now. But I have felt an incredible wave of love for my musicians and the people I work with, and this seems to be mutual, because all the last days I get the same feelings from my musicians on the internet, via SMS. We are connected to each other, and the experience of this difficult story, which is so dramatic for the whole world, shows how we should take care of each other. We have to try now, to communicate physically as little as possible and to exclude even minimal risk for ourselves and others. We don’t have rehearsals or meetings at the moment, but we do have the opportunity to stop, look around, think and work on future projects. At home, I have a lot of scores that I am preparing now for the next programmes.
What exactly is open on your desk?
Vladimir Spivakov: Third Symphony by Sergei Rachmaninoff. We have already recorded Rachmaninoff’s first two symphonies with the National Philharmonic Orchestra, and I think it turned out really well. Now I want to record the Third Symphony: we already played it once and postponed it. Now I have just received our recording to listen and understand what else needs to be worked on and what can be corrected.
Recordings are made in the studio or in the House of Music?
Vladimir Spivakov: We record in the Svetlanovsky Hall. German sound engineers come to us and bring a lot of equipment. They are high-class specialists who have received more than one Grammy for their recordings for Deutsche Grammophon. We also recorded a disc for Deutsche Grammophon with the young violinist Daniel Lozakovich – Tchaikovsky’s concert pieces. This disc is a great success in the world and has received the highest critical acclaim. I am now preparing to record Rachmaninoff’s symphony. I think the world will not change as it was, and it will remain so. Like Brodsky, the world will remain the same… dazzlingly snowy, and doubtfully tender… the world will remain eternal. If you look closely, back in 2015 Bill Gates gave his first speech about the coronavirus. Many philosophers and scientists had spoken about it even earlier. For example, the historian Yuval Noah Harari, who wrote the books Sapiens: A Brief History of Humanity and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, predicted how technology, artificial intelligence, would change people’s existence. We need to think about everything that is happening now, and be prepared for everything. Running the state in the current situation is a great skill. We still have to figure out where everything came from, why everything is happening now? The Scripture says: God did not create death. People are to blame for death.
This is the foundation of the entire history of mankind from Adam as far as the Bible is concerned, but today’s deadly pandemic is planetary in scope.
Vladimir Spivakov: Of course, we do not know what awaits us. And it scares us. But it’s important that fear doesn’t paralyse the will, that people maintain their integrity in the face of power. Panic does not have to give in, because it paralyses the human will. Here, I have seen the record of the Mayor of Moscow perfectly reading Brodsky’s poem «Don’t leave the room», and I will add Brodsky’s words to that: «It is not the essence of life that is in it, but the belief in what should be in it».
Almost now it is clear how seriously art projects, musicians and artists will be affected by this situation?
Vladimir Spivakov: Certainly so, but still we do not need to be pessimists, we need to see every difficulty as an opportunity. I cancelled my big tour in China in April, where I had to conduct orchestras in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other major cities. «Moscow Virtuosi» were to fly to Latin America in May. These tours, of course, have also been cancelled. I am very concerned about my festival in France, in Colmar, which is due to be held for the 32nd time. The whole programme has been prepared, but it is not known whether it will take place. In September, NFOR and I have performances planned at the Teatro alla Scala: a large series of symphony concerts. The other day the management of La Scala asked me to send them my photos. So they are still hoping that this tour will take place. But today, no one can say anything with precision. Italians have the most difficult situation, so I am very happy that Russia has helped them. You could say that we fulfilled Dostoevsky’s covenant that «everyone is responsible for each other».
The situation in France is also difficult, and you have children living there, right?
Vladimir Spivakov: Yes, they sit in Paris all around their corners. They go outside with papers that say: «I’m going to a supermarket to buy bread» or cereals. Everyone is wearing masks. They write that I have to sit at home and not go out. I do not go out, I do not go to the House of Music. I know that disinfection is carried out there every day and every precaution is taken. The Music House is empty, and it is very difficult to accept.
Many concerts that have been cancelled can no longer be included in next season’s programmes, and it turns out that the spring poster is irrevocably lost?
Vladimir Spivakov: Yes, it sounds like Marcel Proust. And the economic situation is really very difficult. But we, as always in Russia, rely on people’s consciousness. As they say, this is not the case. But I think that the country will draw important conclusions from this history and that the financial support of many institutions and industries will now be reviewed. Because many people think that: people sit in laboratories, grow bacteria, what do they do there? Nonsense. But it turns out that this is not nonsense! The experience of today’s situation shows that you have to support science, you have to support doctors. We need to support art, because art is not only the sublime image of the state, but what shapes a person as a human being gives them the strength to overcome all difficulties.
Text: Irina Muravieva