At the end of September, the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory presented the full-length documentary feature film “Organ Symphony” about the latest creation of the great French organ master Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.
The film tells the story of creation and restoration of the organ of the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, which took place from 2014 to 2016. Sergey Uvarov, a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, Ph.D. in Arts and a Member of Russian Union of Composers, is the director, screenwriter and editor of the film.
President of the Moscow Conservatory, Member of the Authors Council of Russian Authors’ Society, Professor Alexander Sokolov told how the film was shot.
– Mr. Sokolov, it’s very unusual to see the word “producer” next to your name. Is that the spirit of the times?
– Rather, a coincidence. For many years, close attention was drawn to the organ of the Great Hall of the Conservatory. A unique instrument was in a very poor condition. This organ avoided reconstructions and stands out among many other instruments of the French company Cavaillé-Coll that have survived to this day; it is authentic. It is an artistic and historical monument. Moreover, it is installed in the hall, which also has the status of a monument of cultural interest. We have been thinking about its restoration for a long time, but since the company that built the organ no longer exists, we had to look for the followers of the techniques of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll for a long time. Eventually, the choice fell on the Austrian company Rieger Orgelbau. An international commission was created, which monitored each stage of restoration work. At the same time, we recorded everything that was happening on camera. So began the shooting of the future documentary film with its specific genre features, a combination of historical authenticity and artistic embodiment of the idea. I am very pleased that the Conservatory took part not only in the technical, but also in the creative part of the project. The young composer Denis Pisarevsky wrote music – especially for this film and bearing in mind this particular instrument. He also participated in the selection of musical fragments related to the story of the organ.
– How was the film crew formed? Who was the initiator?
– In fact, several projects crossed here. The Moscow Conservatory hosts a dozen of international competitions. The Organ Competition is among them. When or many years the finals of this competition were held in the Small Hall and not in the Great Hall, everyone was very sad. The Competition of Composers is related to the Organ Competition. Works specially written for the organ are also our tradition. So, the idea of synthesis matured. The film made it possible to combine all these topics. As the President of the Moscow Conservatory, it was easier for me to do this, because I am the chairman of the organizing committees of these competitions, and, naturally, of the commission that was involved in the restoration of the organ. So here a retrospective and perspective are interwoven. Well, the youth is always ready to support the initiative. Moreover, unlike foreign conservatories, where composers study at universities, we have gathered performers, musicologists and composers under one roof, so that an integrated approach to any creative project is possible.
– Making a film is an expensive story.
– The Board of Trustees of the Moscow Conservatory was very interested in our project, and Siemens company, which is a member of the Board of Trustees for seventeen years, since its founding, has provided the necessary funds for the project.
– Will there be the film’s release?
– It has already started. First of all, we offered to show the film at “The Window to Europe” Film Festival in Vyborg. The film aroused much interest. It was especially important for us to get professional feedback, because it was a kind of experiment. The first fry was not bound to be a flop! The script was written with taste, excellent camera work. Different types of shooting were justified by technical considerations. For example, when the camera rests on the operator’s shoulder, who descends the stairs into the bowels of the organ, this is not a defect at all, but a technique that was repeatedly played out in the highly artistic cinema of the 20th century. We learn!
– Mr. Sokolov, you must have visited the organ more than once. What are your impressions?
– Yes, I’m very passionate about this instrument. Together with Natalya Malina, I moved through all these labyrinths and stairs with genuine amazement… This is a real city! Spirituality of this instrument astonishes you. We see its front facade and do not even imagine what is happening inside, how the organ breathes, how it functions. It’s all there in our film.
– The instrument “captures the aura” of the performer. However, the organ master is always present in the fate of an organ. In the modern history of the organ of the Great Hall of the Conservatory, the master is Natalya Malina.
– You are right, there is a close connection between the master and a specific instrument. It always happens like this. Each organ, as in high medicine, has hidden diseases, individual undetected opportunities. When the restoration began, foreign experts did not immediately understand that without Natalya it would take them quite a while to understand what was happening with the instrument. They were very grateful for her help. Natalya is a unique master. Master with a capital letter! I’m glad that she does her best to educate those who will take care of the instrument after her.
– “Organ Symphony” is the first film made by the Conservatory. Shall we expect new films?
– Over the past years, we have created professional television equipped with the latest technologies. We held a casting, put together a professional team. This large project also has a film production segment. Naturally, they will be associated with music in the context of arts. While we collect material, we shoot what is going on in the Conservatory, and not only on its stages, as soon as a worthy idea comes up, we will certainly implement it, and at new technical level.
– And the subjects?
– Soon we will celebrate the centenary of the State Collection of Unique Musical Instruments, which, as you know, has been kept at the Moscow Conservatory for a long time, by the way, in the building of the same Great Hall. Then it was transferred to the Museum of Musical Culture named after Glinka, and now the Russian National Museum of Music, with which we have partnership. The story of each instrument is a separate film. In October, we will have an open meeting of the Scientific Council, and I think we will discuss this idea. There is a scientific basis, and the opportunity to talk about those who played the instruments of the State Collection, and the desire to reveal the secret of the appearance of the instruments of Amati, Stradivari, Guarneri. We have a cooperation agreement with the Stradivari Institute in Genoa, so it may become a unique project. Better than a film, no?