These films of the Bach Cello Suites were made in the Church of St. George in Staro Nagoricane, North Macedonia. Built in the 14th century, this church is considered one of the finest examples of Christian churches of its time and is situated on the border between Macedonia and Serbia.
As a child I visited many old and beautiful churches in former Yugoslavia with my father, who was a choral conductor and a great admirer of the fresco art. The atmosphere of orthodox monasteries and churches like Studenica, Sopocani or Staro Nagoricane, as well the sound of the choral music which I heard there, stayed in my heart and had a profound influence on my imagination and experience of art and music in general.
When I first started to play Bach at the age of 7, I imagined playing it in these churches. I immediately sensed (and learned about) the deep connection which Bach’s music has to religion and the bible. For me, this world was in these churches. The powerful and colourful frescos would come to life and could speak to me. This was in 1960s and 70s during the communist era; I lived in Belgrade and Moscow, where any connection to religion and the church had to be hidden.
Even in the last 30 years, I faced another problem in my wish to play Bach in one of these churches: that the Orthodox Church forbids instrumental music; only singing is allowed. After several unsuccessful attempts I had to accept that this was impossible, but still held on to the dream of doing so one day. Finally, miraculously, it became possible for me to record in this church – just for a single day! I feel extremely lucky and grateful that I was able to get permission to record these films in one day in the exceptional Church of St. George in Staro Nagoricane.
The limitation of one day and one church turned out to be just right for this project. In the films we see always the same church and frescos, but at different times of the day and with changing atmospheres inside, according to the character of the particular suite. To me personally, each fresco has many layers and varied meanings, which gradually came to me through seeing and experiencing them in different periods of my life. In listening to the music and seeing the images in this film it is not necessary to know which fresco is shown and why; the approach could be more like that of the Orthodox church service – simply emotional surrender.
Sergei Prokofiev: Sinfonia Concertante /Aram Khachaturian: Cello Concerto
It is particularly interesting to hear these two cello concertos side by side. Despite their different musical language, both works have a strong theatrical side so typical for Prokofiev’s and also Khachaturian’s music. Both concertos are written in the last years of the Stalin era, within just six years of each other (1946 and 1952), and both are in E minor!
Click for Video of Beethoven’s Clarinet Trio with Jörg Widmann and Elena Bashkirova
This recording is made on the period instruments.
Schubert Trios are specially moving because of the intimate conversations between the three instruments which touch such profound feelings like deep solitude, love, happiness, fear, mystery of death and many others. And then on the other side the symphonic dimension with the richness of tunes, characters and moods as well as the impressive duration of more than 45 minutes. Schubert’s written dynamics in the E flat major trio are also extreme, reaching triple pianissimo and triple fortissimo.It was fascinating for us as a piano trio to explore these different dimensions, characters, sound colors, dynamics, moods, atmospheres specially playing on the period instruments.
For our second cd we have chosen to record Beethoven trios. Once again we had an adventure playing on gut strings, classical bows and the beautiful Salvatore Lagrassa, 1815 piano from the Edwin Beunk collection. As a musician one has individual timing, ones approach to colours, articulation and phrasing which are pretty personal. It could be akin to how one uses language to express oneself. The peculiar effect of using the historic instruments is how one suddenly has a new dialect in a language that one felt relatively at home in. This opens up new expressions and creates a different sound world, every nuance of emotion or thought that has been experienced becomes more rooted, there is more edge, so many small details are more vivid in colour and articulation which gives a very different picture of the whole. Its perhaps close to a restoration of a picture only much of what is restored happens to us!
A recording is but a moment in time, hopefully capturing moments of inspiration.
I believe we succeeded in creating an interesting and beautiful string version of the Haydn Cello Concertos. I did not play on my Gregorio Antoniazzi instrument (1733 from the workshop of Montagnana) for this concert and recording, but instead on my new Ragnar Hayn Cello from 2010, made in Berlin. It was a great pleasure to play on this instrument, which has a sunny and bright quality of sound, working particularly well with this version of the concertos.
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