Updated: Nov 8
I am thrilled to share another article about the project with my music. It centers around the music of contemporary composers which has garnered significant popularity. The article discusses my music once again, highlighting its significance. You can find the translated version below as well as the original link to the article and the video of my music from the concert.
Gamzatov is not for everyone. The conductor inspired new life in the classics.
Rasul Gamzatov’s poem “I Think About You” formed the basis of a musical and dramatic concert that appeared on the Dagestan stage thanks to Emilia Shikhragimova. At the age of 28, the chief choirmaster of the Dagestan Opera and Ballet Theater achieved support from the republic for a grant from the Russian Federation economy for the creation of this incredible project, striking the deepest feelings and existence in every inception. She involved a creative team in creating the concert, which opened up to audition for the truly new Rasul Gamzatov. In the project, Emilia Shikhragimova acted as a conductor. The next time “I’m Thinking About You” will be shown on the Big Stage of the Russian Theater on November 18. In the meantime, we talked with the choirmaster and found out what the secret of the benefits of a creative project is.
— The Opera and Ballet Theater was awarded a grant from the Russian Federation. Based on the data on the website of the Federal Ministry of Culture, it will be much more – more than six million.
— Yes, and this is an unprecedented case for the Dagestan theater, in principle, concert organizations receive large grants and retreat earlier.
— How to get such a significant grant while working in cultural institutions? Or is it just luck?
- No, it's not luck. I spent a whole year preparing the project together with a person who is a professional designer. This was my good friend, whom I met in Saratov while studying at conservatories. She accompanied me and advised me throughout the entire period. Federal grant, there are many nuances that you should pay attention to. But the main secret in this matter is not to focus on your preferences. In addition to creative interest, one must understand that a republic is needed. The centenary of Rasul Gamzatov, of course, is the main trump card here.
— The concert is called “I’m Thinking About You.” Does this line from Rasul Gamzatov’s poem have any sacred meaning?
- Yes, it’s not just like that. We see here an obvious return to the image of the beloved woman, but the appeal can be interpreted in different ways - to life, to love, to poetry.
— The concert included about 20 songs. On what basis was the repertoire selected?
— It was long and painstaking work. I listened to a variety of compositions and studied many parts. The works of Rasul Gamzatov are not very well known in academic art, not just to the audience, but also to the musicians themselves. I simply contacted different composers and asked if they had music written to Gamzatov’s poems. A lot of advice was given to the project director Dmitry Pavlov. Taking into account the creative capabilities of the team, we selected works to suit our composition. Based on the principle of what can be meaningful and interesting to listen to. And it was also important that the choruses were combined with the dramatic part.
— Why didn’t you take the easier path - take complex songs and remake them for a choir?
- And we are not looking for easy ways. We wanted to show an area that is still unknown to people. The choir, for example, unlike the orchestra, is not perceived as a truly great creative force. I wanted not only to show the unknown Rasul Gamzatov but also to popularize art through this choral music.
“It seems to me that what we ended up with is far from mass art.” Not everyone watches such a concert in the morning.
- Yes and no. Yes, because the concert is for a prepared audience. But at the same time, the songs are not perceived as complex. Although there is no ease here, the deeper sides of Gamzatov’s creativity are revealed. There is no Rasul that we were able to see. The director dug deeper and discovered the unknown, hidden in his work. If someone is not interested, then this just means that the person does not want to delve into and reason. It is no coincidence that we strived for intimacy and avoided “global pathos” because this work was connected with the poet’s philosophical reflections and his life experience. These innermost thoughts and feelings will not tell everything. We strived for the intimacy of what was happening, and this is reflected in everything, including the video sequence. It is no coincidence that the choir is small. Usually, everyone has time to see about seventy artists on stage. There are only 24 of them here.
The concert includes several works by Murad Kazhlaev and Shirvani Chalaev. Why do they sound so different, since both composers are from Dagestan, and both were inspired by the same poetry?
- This is interesting and surprising. You can hear jazz harmonies from Kazhlaev. He brings the musical to the fore. He has rich, life-affirming music and is characterized by songfulness. Chalaev is more ascetic in music, he treats words more reverently and turns more to traditional mountain intonations. Chalaev has a dialogue between a musical instrument and the human voice; it is more philosophical. We can observe this in the project. It’s great that both composers sound here. They present Gamzatov's poetry in different colors, expanding its boundaries.
- Yes indeed. I had a feeling of “integrity” throughout the entire concert.
— Because we created a holistic “performance,” although we call it a musical and dramatic concert. When a team of professionals works, the result is obvious.
— Do you have anything to tell about new works that were performed for the first time?
— Several new works have been written. These are “In my memories of You” by Igor Kazakov, “The Sunny Days Have Disappeared” by Sergei Ekimov, and “I Saw Your Eyes differently” by Ramazan Fataliev. The song “In the Land of Peaks” by Gyulya Kambarova was performed for the first time. Although it was written 10 years ago. And Aida Jafarova’s romance “I’ll light up the stars for you in a thunderstorm” has been heard at concerts before, but not so fully.
— I’m very interested in listening to the story of the song “The Sunny Days Have Gone.” For all the spectators, probably not only for me, it was unexpected to hear not a classical performance by Leontyev, but something so deep - both musically and in meaning.
— We had no goal to make this song similar to what we all know. On the contrary, we wanted to surprise, and we succeeded. Sergei Ekimov is a famous St. Petersburg composer and conductor. His music is actively performed today by leading choirs. I'm interested in his style. After consulting with the director, I turned to him with a request to write a new work specifically for our project. We wanted something very fresh, and we needed not a Dagestan composer, but a person with a completely detached mindset from Dagestan. He, of course, was very surprised why this particular text. I thought that a song that exists could no longer be re-sung. There was a risk that the new music would simply not be accepted. Nevertheless, the work turned out to be successful. As a result, Sergei Ekimov was so inspired by this work that he created two more choirs based on poems by Rasul Gamzatov. And “My Priceless” is published with a remark dedicated to me and my team.
— You said that Gyuli Kambarova has not been performed before. Have you talked to her? Why is she, living in the USA, interested in a concert of some Dagestan theater? I saw her reviews after the premiere. As far as I understand, she watched the concert in the recording.
“Her creativity is a real gift for us. She has been living in America for a long time and has an active and successful musical career. She participates in serious competitions, and writes music for films, including collaborating with Russian film directors. Will be nominated for a Grammy next year. For Gyulya Kambarova, her music must be performed in her small homeland. She is always ready to cooperate and is happy about even the slightest appeal to her work, which is why we have such a good dialogue. There is a lot of Rasul Gamzatov in her biography. These are both choral and vocal cycles. There is even instrumental music that is inspired by his poetry. For her, Rasul Gamzatov is such a connecting thread with Dagestan. She told me that she turns to him when she is sad when she wants to go home. The composer was only able to watch a video recording of our performance of the song, but she liked it so much that she dedicated one cycle, written to poems by Russian poets, to me as a performer.
— So the project gave you personally at least two mentions in the history of modern music?
- Yes. It's funny though. When I studied at the conservatory, we studied all these stage directions for works, we were seriously challenged with them. And when there is some “L. M." mentioned, you don’t understand at all how to find out who it is - you start fantasizing. And so I laugh because now students will discover and think who Emilia Shikhragimova is.
— But seriously, don’t you regret taking on this project?
— Of course, there were a variety of emotions in the process. I also regretted it when there was a feeling of hopelessness. In the process of preparation, I even had to temporarily interrupt my graduate studies. We walked towards this premiere with great difficulty. Difficulties arose of all kinds, and they were associated with misunderstanding on the part of people in the theater, who should, on the contrary, support and help. Now, at this stage of my creative life, I understand that this is a huge experience. This is my experience in the performing field, this is my development as a conductor and contribution to the education of the team. I think the choir has become a little stronger. The material was not the simplest, but we probably prepared it in two months. The project provided an opportunity to learn how to make quick decisions and make compromises. I wouldn’t forgive myself if it failed and didn’t take place. And, despite the many nuances known only to me and my team, the result, thanks to our efforts, was beyond praise.
I would like to continue creating similar projects. I would love to do this again and bring in the creative team that has been with me throughout, including the director and soloists because these people have proven that you can even go with them to a desert island.