In our youth, music and poetry were the lifeblood of our Soviet upbringing. They provided colour and meaning to the drab existence of many Russians. Together with the breathtaking Russian countryside, they became almost like a religion in the atheist Soviet Union.“If a musician is a true artist, his experience of the music of poetry is just as acute as that of the poetry of music”. These words of the great Russian pianist and teacher Heinrich Neuhaus became our motto. As classically- trained musicians, we were not only fascinated by Russian classical music but also by Russian classical poetry. Nowhere are these two high art forms so interwoven as in the Russian Art Song.
The poems by Pushkin, Tiutchev, A. Tolstoy and others inspired the great 19th century composers to create the beautiful songs which are firmly embedded in the collective psyche of every Russian.
After years of living abroad, we started to miss this music – the music which made us who we are. We began to listen to it with increased intensity, with “different ears”, as it now sounded so distant yet so familiar. We found ourselves falling in love again with the “romances” – the music of the “Russian Soul” which comes through most naturally in this genre, with all its heartache and emotional turmoil.
After (listening to them for) some time, we felt compelled to perform this music. As instrumentalists, we are forever envious of singers. They can bring the symbiosis of music and poetry to the fore through the most subtle and powerful of all instruments - the human voice. We thought an arrangement of Romances for cello and piano might be successful because the cello, of all instruments, comes closest to the human voice.
Besides, we realised that poetry needs a translation, unless the listener understands the language in which the lyrics are written, while music is the original, universal language. The music of these romances is inspired by poetry, but in the end the words dissolve into the melody and the music speaks for itself.
This is how the idea of this project came about. First (was) came!!! the arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s setting of the A. Tolstoy’s poem “Then in the early Spring”, which for (the two of) us symbolised the time when we first met as teenagers.
Dmitry Ferschtman and Mila Baslawskaja