For two years in succession, Chelyabinsk has been visited by the SASO – the State Russian Academic Symphonic Orchestra directed by Mark Gorenstein. Before that, for ten years, he had directed an orchestra “The Young Russia” founded by him, which, in quite a short time, entered the big league of musical collectives of the country. Now, after the orchestra was renamed as “The New Russia”, it came under the leadership of Yuri Bashmet, who made the Chelyabinsk auditory happy by performing in August. The concert was a great success, just like the last year’s performance of the State Russian Orchestra, a new meeting with which is expected on September 18 in the Opera Theater.
JUST LIKE IN A MOVIE
It seemed that destiny has tested Mark Gorenstein to the limit. But, at the same time, it favored him and always led upwards. The destiny promoted him from a bandsman to the art director of the main orchestra of the country, which, before him, had been brilliantly directed by Eugenie Svetlanov. This great musician and conductor passed away for years ago. His death was preceded by an ugly and humiliating scandal with dismissal. However, this scandal could not diminish the glory and greatness of the maître, his global fame and universal recognition. And when, two years later after his death, a new director was appointed, many people, out of habit, continued to call the orchestra (and still call) “svetlanovsky”. Consequently, it was a great trial and, in a sense, courage for a beginner to stand at the conductor’s desk. Those, who were happy to visit the last year’s concert of the SASO, say that the orchestra is in good hands now.
It is believed that all the greatest violin players of Russia in the 20th century were given to the country by Odessa. Gorenstein is of Odessa descent. His parents were not rich and had nothing to do with music and from his age of 12 only mother, who earned just 70 rubles to elevate two children, brought up the future conductor. Nevertheless, when her six years old son asked to buy him a violin, she immediately did it and brought the boy to the famous musical school of Stolyarovsky. He got addicted to the violin after watching the movie “The vocation” about a talented boy, violin player, who later became a conductor.
The story of Gorenstein was just like in the movie. He became a first class violin player and played in the most prestigious orchestras of the country dreaming of the conductor’s baton. Away back in his early youth, having read a book by Kirill Kondrashin, he clearly understood that he first had to form his personality as a musician. Conductor is a profession of the second part of life. And his dream came true 30 years later. However, he got his first orchestra not in Russia but in Hungary. Since 1985, he headed first the Budapest Symphonic Orchestra and later the Orchestra of Pusan in the South Korea. He came back to Russia in 1992 with a large creative equipment and good experience as a conductor. And he created “The Young Russia” by uniting young and talented musicians in this orchestra.
SASO – HIS ALMA MATER
In each interview, Mark Gorenstein, with great respect and recognition, tells about his great predecessor, his first and the only teacher in the art of conducting.
– Together with my musicians, I will do my best in order to give rebirth to the glory of the State orchestra. Each season, while I am conducting this orchestra, we will play the concert commemorating this great master.
In the main orchestra of the country, he appeared due to Svetlanov. It was the year of 1973. Then, the former student of a conservatory works as a concertmaster of the Symphonic Orchestra of the Kishinev Philharmonics.
– It is a very interesting story, – he remembers. – I was on medical leave and decided to go to Moscow. There I noticed an announcement about the competition for violin players in the SASO and immediately called to my friend to ask him to send me my violin by plane. I came to the competition, but they did not accept me, as I had no documents, referrals or employment reference with me. My friends persuaded the orchestra inspector to listen to me without documents and he, in his turn, persuaded Svetlanov. Having listened to me, Eugenie Feodorovich asked if I could bring the documents. And I told in a flurry the thing, for which I am still blaming myself: “In Kishinev, my boss, who is the People’s Artist of the USSR just like you, he thinks that I am ill, and how can I come to him and ask for references. It is impossible”. However, Sveltanov was not offended and just said: “Well, when you bring the documents, come, then”.
In the competition, musicians from the Bolshoi Theater were present. They started to persuade me that if I did not get to the State Orchestra, I should come to work with them. I returned to Kishinev in euphoria – the Bolshoi Theater and the capital were waiting for me. I immediately left my work there, gave back my flat to the Philharmonics. I came to Moscow and found out that the situation had changed and I had to pass the completion according to the standard procedure to get job in the Bolshoi. Though, there were 60 persons for one position, I won the competition. But I am a stubborn man, when, two years later, they announced about the competition to the State Orchestra, I decided to take the chance. Again, there were many candidates for one place and everyone from the commission wanted to take his own musician. This time, Svetlanov stood for me: “I do not understand, what you are talking about here. Gorenstein played better than others for the second time. And you are suggesting me others.”
Having worked in the Sveltanov’s Orchestra for two years, got a flat in Moscow and provided his family with minimum income, Mark Gorenstein decided to make his dream come true and get education as a conductor. He came to the professor of the Moscow Conservatory, Ginsburg and hot a concrete answer: «With such family name, they do not become conductors”. The same reply was given to him in Leningrad Conservatory.
And Svetlanov helped again
Gorenstein has always tried to conduct. There were several attempts in Moscow. When Eugenie Svetlanov knew about this old dream of his musician, he gave him a recommendation letter into the Ministry of Culture of the USSR, and especially for him, in Novosibirsk Conservatory; they opened a place for remote education. Instead of 5 years, it took him only 3 years to graduate and in 1982 he got a diploma at the All-Russian Contest of Conductors.
“I hoped, that Eugenie Feodorovitch would make me his assistant, – remembers the current head of the SASO in his interview for the magazine “Moscow Echo”, – Svetlanov could come to me in entr’acte and say: “Marik, tomorrow, you will conduct the Symphony 2 by Rachmaninov at the rehearsal”. “Eugenie Feodorovitch! How tomorrow?” – I cried horrified. – “Only one night left and I have never conducted it.” And he replied: “It’s ok. You are a talented man, you will manage”.
It was impossible to say “no” to Eugenie Feodorovitch, and, beside this, I aspired to conduct myself. I could not become an assistant for Svetlanov. And, additionally, my private life changed. I asked Svetlanov to let me go to Hungary for half a year, as my second wife is a Hungarian. He refused and I left the orchestra. In my goodbye letter to Eugenie Feodorovitch, I sincerely accepted that to my grave, I owe to him everything that I have in my life. And I still think so”.
Then another life zigzag came in his live, and again increasingly. The voice of the “Young Russia” Orchestra created by Gorenstein fast became so strong and so beautiful that enraptured both the most sophisticated audience and famous foreign promoters.
When in 2000, Svetlanov was fired, and Gorenstein was proposed to become the head of his Alma Mater, he refused expressly as he considered low the trick of those who stood against his teacher and great master. Many conductors refused that position that time. And only two years after the death of Svetlanov, when the orchestra got in a sad state, Mark Gorenstein took this decision, which was very hard for him. I was very sorry to part with his “Young Russia”, but he owed everything to his Alma Mater – the Russian State Symphonic Orchestra.
Someone of the famous musicians said that one could understand the character of the conductor from the way he walks to his conductor’s desk.
– In the collective, where 110 people work, it is impossible to be goody, – thinks Mark Borisovitch.
And he is right. Tovstonogov was sever and created a great theater. Grigorovitch is thought to be a severe ballet-master and created a great ballet. That is why, when Gorenstein comes to his musicians, they do everything what he thinks needed. And after rehearsal he is the embodiment of goodness and charm, he is a man of heart, communicative and intelligent.
It took some time for my musicians to understand that there is not a slightest anger in my remarks, that I feel not a slightest dislike to anyone, or, like the young people like to say, I do not mess anyone. And the recent success is breath taking; I am surprised myself, indeed…