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SERGEI KOUSSEVITZKY by Victor Yuzefovich


Serge Koussevitzky, Vol 1: The Russian Years by Dr. Victor Yuzefovich


Preface - Legends and Reality

Who was Koussevitzky? Four existing books and the justification for a fifth. Legends and reality. Concept and realization. Acknowledgements. Bibliographical indications.

Chapter One - Childhood on the Banks of the Volga

1874 in the context of the times. Vyshny Volochek on the River Tvertsa, source of the Volga. A Jewish family from the Russian provinces. Nature, people, music. Early studies on the double bass and first tours. Decision to become a musician. Rift in relations with his father.

Chapter Two - Student Years in Moscow

Confrontation with an unfamiliar city. The Moscow Philharmonic Institute. Conversion to Christianity. Concerts and theatre. Encounter with Tchaikovsky. Acquaintance with Rachmaninoff. Teachers. Josef Rambousek. Struggle for subsistence. First solo appearances. Competitions in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

Chapter Three - Eleven Years with the Bolshoi Theatre

The best orchestra in Moscow. Musicians and conductors. From the back desk to Principal Double bass. The young musician's wide range of interests. Acquaintance with Marcella Sembrich. Friendship with Sobinov and Chaliapin. Rachmaninov as Musical Director of the theatre. Unhappy marriage.

Chapter Four - Double bass Soloist

The double bass and Koussevitzky's predecessors. Establishment of the double bass as a solo instrument on the concert platform. Joint performances with Sobinov and Chaliapin. Long-range rivalry with František Simandl. First concert appearances as soloist. Repertoire as a double bassist. Koussevitzky as composer. His instruments. Physical problems with the hands.

Chapter Five - World renown as a double bassist

Appearances in Russia and abroad. Professorship at the Moscow Philharmonic Institute. The Ushkov family and the traditions of Russian philanthropy. Marriage to Natalie. The 'Musical Helots' article. Resignation from the Bolshoi Theatre.

Chapter Six - Career Change to Conducting

Departure to Germany. Berlin as a musical Mecca. Musical and extra-musical impressions. Europe-wide tours as a double bassist. The Koussevitzky home in Berlin. Renewed contact with Rachmaninoff, Chaliapin and Sobinov. First steps in the support of Russian composers. Beginnings of friendship and collaboration with Scriabin.

Chapter Seven - Master of the Conductor's Profession

What is conducting? Arthur Nikisch. Joseph Joachim and the student orchestra of the Berlin Hochschule für Musik. European debut as a conductor. Nikisch's prophecy.

Chapter Eight - Return to Russia

Music in the context of the 'Silver Age' of Russian culture. Moscow at the dawn of the 20th Century. The mansion on the Arbat. On the brink of the thirty-fifth birthday.

Chapter Nine - The First Decade of Russian Musical Editions (Part I)

Russian Musical Editions and the situation of Russian composers. Establishment of RME, its aims and charter. The RME Council and the participation therein of Rachmaninov and Scriabin. Conflicts in the Council. Acquisition of the A. Gutheil imprint.

Chapter Ten - The First Decade of Russian Musical Editions (Part II)

Koussevitzky's priorities as a publisher. Beginnings of collaboration with Stravinsky and Prokofiev. Conflicts in the Council. Publication of books.

Chapter Eleven - The Conductor as Performer on the Double bass

Appearances with Henri Casadesus and the Société des Instruments Anciens. Concert in the home of Lev Tolstoy. Koussevitzky's instrumental style on the Double bass. The art of playing the Double bass post-Koussevitzky.

Chapter Twelve - Establishing a Career as a Conductor

The Russian school of conducting. Concert life in Russia. Koussevitzky conducting debut in Russia. Attempts to revivify the Imperial Russian Musical Society.

Chapter Thirteen - Founding and First Two Seasons of the Koussevitzky Concerts

Preparation and inauguration of the Concerts. Repertoire priorities. Choral ensembles. Engagement of conductors. Incidents with Fried and Mengelberg. Soloists. Promotion of talented young artists. Support of Arthur Rubinstein. Confrontation with critics.

Chapter Fourteen - Koussevitzky and Scriabin (Part I)

Differences of opinion over Scriabin. Scriabin's programmes as a conductor. Premiere of Prometheus. Rift with Scriabin.

Chapter Fifteen - Koussevitzky's Orchestra

The first specifically symphonic orchestra in Russia. Basic organizational principles. Debut performances and conflicts. The orchestral musicians. The conductor and the orchestra.

Chapter Sixteen - The S. Koussevitzky Concerts: The Three Pre-War Seasons (Part I)

Expansion of the Western European repertoire. Cycle of Beethoven Symphonies. The 'Bach Festivals'. Intensification of rivalry among concert organizations.

Chapter Seventeen - The S. Koussevitzky Concerts: The Three Pre-War Seasons (Part II)

Invitation to Claude Debussy. Nikisch conducts at his former student's concerts. Ferrucio Busoni and others.

Chapter Eighteen - The S. Koussevitzky Concerts: The Three Pre-War Seasons (Part III)

The Russian repertoire. Cycle of Tchaikovsky symphonies. The Fifth Symphony. Russian premiere performances of Stravinsky's Petrushka and The Rite of Spring. Debut of Prokofiev. Other premieres. The conductor gains in strength. Zenith of the Koussevitzky Concerts.

Chapter Nineteen - Koussevitzky and Scriabin (Part II)

Death of Scriabin. Koussevitzky's Scriabin cycle. The conductor's interpretation of Scriabin's music.

Chapter Twenty - The Guiding Line: Musical Enlightenment (Part I)

The concert hall and the atmosphere at Koussevitzky concerts. Matinee performances at accessible prices for all. Summer seasons in Sokolniki Park and the gardens of the Hermitage. The proposed Academy of Arts.

Chapter Twenty One - The Guiding Line: Musical Enlightenment (Part II)

Three tours of the Volga. First meeting with Olga Naumova. The Koussevitzky Orchestra's tours of Southern Russia.

Chapter Twenty Two - The Last Pre-Revolutionary Seasons of the Koussevitzky Concerts (Part I)

The First World War. Anthems without chauvinism. Continuing collaboration with Rachmaninoff.

Chapter Twenty Three - The Last Pre-Revolutionary Seasons of the Koussevitzky Concerts (Part II)

Premiere performances of works by Nikolai Myaskovsky and Sergei Taneyev. The series of chamber music concerts. Administration of the Koussevitzky Concerts and their deficits. The final appearance of the Koussevitzky Orchestra.

Chapter Twenty Four - Two and a Half Years in Soviet Russia (Part I)

The Russian intelligentsia and Revolution. At the helm of the first State Orchestra. Koussevitzky's political attitude. Concerts in Moscow. Revolution, music and the people. Premiere performances of works by Medtner and Grechaninov.

Chapter Twenty Five - Two and a Half Years in Soviet Russia (Part II)

Struggle for the autonomy of the State Orchestra and its 'People's Concerts'. Life between two capitals. Activities in musical and public life. The 1919/20 season. Two Beethoven cycles and a second Scriabin cycle in Moscow. Operatic debut. Koussevitzky's last appearances in his native country.

Chapter Twenty Six - Two and a Half Years in Soviet Russia (Part III)

Crumbling of illusions. Under surveillance by the secret police. Decision to leave Russia. Last concerts in Moscow and Petrograd. Meetings with Lunacharsky, Chicherin and Menzhinsky. At the Estonian border.

Copyright © 2004, 2015, Victor Yuzefovich - Translation by Anthony Phillips