Alexander Knaifel: A Silly Horse

Fifteen Tales for a Singer (female) and a Guitarist (male)

Rhymes (in Russian) by Vadim Levin, English text by Fainna Solasco
Transcription for guitar and voice by Konstantin Vassiliev and Matanya Ophee

64 pp. $24.95. Presser Order number 491-00482 (DTMO-6)

horse.jpgA Silly Horse was written in 1981 for the composer’s wife, the Russian acclaimed soprano Tatiana Melentieva. She gave the first American performance of the piece at the Ohio State University (Columbus, OH) in 1991. The present version for voice and guitar was authorized by the composer who actively supervised the transcription process. A Silly Horse is not merely a musical composition for voice and an accompanying instrument. It is a multi-media work, lasting some 70 minutes, which involves music, story-telling, poetry, theater and even choreography.

The score contains detailed instructions, prescribed by the composer himself and adapted for the guitar, regarding all performance aspects of this work. A complete performance of A Silly Horse is a mesmerizing experience where time becomes suspended and the magic of a child’s fancy takes over.

Knaifel.jpgAlexander Knaifel (b. 1943) studied cello with Mstislav Rostropovich at Moscow Conservatory and composition with Boris Arapov at Leningrad Conservatory. Upon graduation as a composer in 1967, he became a powerful voice of the mid-1960s Sturm und Drang period of Soviet music. The centerpiece of his early years is Jeanne (1970-1978), an “instrumental passion” for fifty-six soloists, that marks the beginning of a highly individual style. Other major works of that time include The Ghost of Canterville (1966), an opera on Oscar Wilde’s short story, Petrograd Sparrows (1967), a “suite-phantasmagoria” for chamber orchestra and boys choir; and a choreographic symphony Medea (1968).

Mstislav Rostropovich, the world renowned musician, inspired and performed the world premieres of Chapter Eight (1993), Psalm 51 and Bliss (1996), in which he performed as cellist, pianist, and conductor. The 1990s were particularly productive for Knaifel. The depth of the human soul and spiritual integrity are of major interest to him. Of his works on religious texts, Chapter Eight, canticum canticorum for church, four choruses, and cello solo stands out in its epic proportion. Other major works include The Holy Oblation for chorus of string instruments (1991); O Gladsome Light for soprano (1991); Scalae Iacobis, glossolalia tredicim (1992); Maranathá for soloists, ensembles, choruses, and orchestras (1993), In Pure and Transparent Air, stanzas with Tiutchev for piano and string quartet (1994); With the White on the White for a mixed chorus a capella (1998). Knaifel has also written more than forty successful film scores. All of the works display his original and independent style, whether they are deeply spiritual or touched with a distinct sense of humor. His philosophical approach to composition is imbued with metaphysical æsthetics, the symbolism of numbers and letters, geometry, and a masterful sense of musical proportion. Many of his works, whether they are inordinately long or extremely short, create their own enthralling temporal continuum to which the audience is made captive at once. Although he often employs large ensembles, his textures tend to be very transparent. Knaifel is fascinated with the existential aspects of performance, from the placement and actions of performers to the aural and visual perspectives of individual members of the audience. His compositions were premiered at major musical festivals in New York, Paris, London, Salzburg, Zurich, Berlin, Cologne, Amsterdam, Ferrara, Moscow, and St. Petersburg.


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