The greater Russian contemporary composer: Viatcheslav Semionov

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by Yulia Amerikova

Yulia AmerikovaIn a previous article I mentioned a theme about original repertoire development in the USSR and Russia. Today I would like to elaborate on the oeuvre of Viatcheslav Semionov. Viatcheslav Semionov – an outstanding figure in the world of accordion art. Bright artist, who visited with concerts more than 30 countries around the world, unique teacher who created his own professional performing school, has trained dozens of talented performers – winners of the most prestigious international competitions, Viatcheslav Semionov is also gifted as a talented composer. In 1999 he was awarded the title of laureate of the International Composers Competition in Moscow dedicated to the 2000th anniversary of Christianity, and in 2010 he became a member of the Union of Composers of Russia.

Viatcheslav Semionov probably one of the most performed composers among accordionists, and his compositions have a great success with the public. Practically in every contestants program at competitions, with few exceptions, you’ll find his works. This success is due to several reasons. All the pieces by Viatcheslav Semionov are always very “accordion fitted (suitable)”. As well as music by F. Chopin and S. Rachmaninoff, despite the complexity, are very ‘piano natural’ also the Semionov compositions are very convenient for accordion performing. By virtue of his professional education, composer knows accordion perfectly which allows him to use unlimited all the technical arsenal of the instrument. At the same time virtuosity, vivid thematic material, superbly-built music form, the convexity of artistic images also make Semionov compositions are very attractive for inclusion them into the repertoire.

In his works Semionov use the accordion completely special. Here is what the composer says about his vision of the accordion: “Our instrument is inherent natural melodiousness, playing the accordion should be able to “sing”. I love when instrument sounds rich, full, noble that the normal musician had no rejection listening the performing music.”

Oeuvre of Viatcheslav Semionov became an important step in the formation of the original accordion repertoire. In 1989, the authoritative commission has determined his ‘Caprice №1’ as the best test piece for the First Moscow International Accordion Competition; four years later, his another work “Dedication” becomes the test piece at the Second International competition “Cup of the North”, and in 2005 at the IV Moscow International Accordion Competition his concerto for accordion and a chamber orchestra “Frescos” is declared as one of the test piece for the Final. In 2008 his composition Caprice № 3 “Polar Lights” becomes the winner of the CIA “Coupe Mondiale” as “Best original work for accordion”.Viatcheslav Semionov

Works by Viatcheslav Semionov greatly enriched the repertoire of contemporary accordionists. In his works the composer refers to different genres. Semionov is an author of numerous works for accordion not only in chamber music, but also based on folklore of different countries.

In the early period Semionov often drawn to folklore. He wrote a number of interesting works based on folk songs and dances. Using folk themes, composer reinterprets them and, in the same time trying to preserve and present the main stylistic folklore features, creates his own style compositions. This is clearly revealed, for example, in his first published composition for accordion – three-part “Bulgarian Suite”. “That time I was needed a piece based on the Bulgarian folklore, but I have not found anything that meets my musical preferences,” – says the composer. And Semionov decides to write a piece by himself. So in 1975 was born one of his most popular works. Its lyrical core is a soulful expression of the second part “Sevdana”. The melodic structure is logical thought out, it has the interconnection of motives, phrases, sentences, the entire form. Sparingly used expressive means: the gentle warm sound, barely perceptible caesuras, lyuftpauzas gives a feeling of silence, peace. Along the edges are two perky miniatures – arrangements of Bulgarian folk dances – “Daychovo Horo” and “Gankino Horo”.

One of the most often performing works by Viatcheslav Semionov is “Don Rhapsody № 1”. Grew up on the river Don – the home of the Don Cossacks – composer imbued Cossack folklore and used it frequently in his compositions. Although each part of the “Rhapsody” can be regarded as independent and is often performed separately, they form together a complete three-part composition. The first tale is based on the main theme which passes through the entire work – Don Cossack song “Oh, da razrodimaya storonushka” – favorite song of the great Russian writer M. Sholokhov. The basis of the second part is two Cossack songs “Chto gh ti, ghinka, guby ghmesh” and “Pchelochka zlataya”. In the third tale composer used wedding lingering Don song “Tuman yarom” and mischievous and cheerful “Iz-za gorochki tumanik vihodil”. Using accordion composers show truly Russian national character, greatheartedness, openness and generosity and depth of feelings. Viatcheslav Semionov uses the fullness and richness of accordion timbre and present accordion like folk singer. In the same time in this piece he uses a variety of accordion technique, in particular, the different ways of bellow-shaking. Third part of “Don Rhapsody №1” becomes so popular that it makes the piece a kind of composer’s visiting card.

Another piece, deservedly popular – “Kalina krasnaya/Guelder Rose”. This fantasia by memory of Vasily Shukshin was written after excitedly ‘s news of the tragic death of a talented writer, director and actor. Based on the folk-stylized Y. Frenkel’s song which can be listen in the eponymous movie by Shukshin, Semionov creates a work full of deep emotions and drama. Sad lyrical theme by Frenkel organically combined with sublimely expressive cantilena of Semionov’s own theme – one of the peak of Semionov’s melodies. Appearing in the beginning, the themes are mapped, then combined in the development process and synthesizing in the climax, forming rich and expressive sound. Thus, the traditional variation form gets symphony features. With all the convenience and apparent simplicity Fantasia demands the artist musical maturity.

Of the more recent folklore based works by Viatcheslav Semionov I would like to mention popular piece “Prophetic dream” and his first composition for ensemble – “Balkan Rhapsody” for two accordions. I also want to mention that Semionov in his oeuvre don’t forget about music for children. He has written two Children’s suites and suite “North pictures”.

In course of time the composer more and more often starts to create compositions based on his own thematic material. Among the notable chamber musician opuses are three sonatas, three caprices, rhapsody “Bramsiana”, concerto for accordion and chamber orchestra “Frescos”. Often used in concert and teaching practice First Sonata has become. Hidden idea of sonata the author calls the “life of an artist”. The composer saya he wrote this sonata not to order but from his heart. 38 years (the sonata was written in 1984) – it is such an age when many people begin to understand more in life, and Semionov felt the need to express his thoughts in a serious way. This is his first major work based on composer’s own material (before his own themes occurred only in children’s suites). It is distinguished by thematic unity and harmony, scale of composer thinking, wonderful timbres feeling and with that – performing convenience.

Viatcheslav SemionovClear logical form first of all manifested in development of themes throughout all sonata. Of the three themes of the first movement – the introduction, the main theme and the second – the first two constitute a single complex. The same intonation is used in the second part and in the main thematic material in final. Lyrical, song character of the second part – Andante sostenuto – develops in three variations. Important dramatic value of second part theme is also being the basis for the final part of the third movement – the final Presto ritmico. There this theme gets apotheosis character, emphasizing the majestic harmony of the whole architectonics. If you take a look at the sonata generally, you’ll find an interesting feature of musical form – 1 movement becomes the main party, 2 movement with its images becomes second part and 3 movement is a development section. Thus, we can find a sonata form in the first movement as well as in all sonata in generally.

One more quite often performed composition is Sonata № 2 “Basquriad”. All three movements pervade intonations of the original music of one of the Spain nations – Basques. Rapid, energetic first movement, lyrical second movement, performed attacca, and temperamental final. Thereby composer creates holistic and dynamic composition. The most impressive part is the Final – “Carnival”. Its bouncy, impulsive character determined by the main theme where you can feel the atmosphere of the typical fiery Spanish dance – Jota.

The concert for accordion, chamber orchestra and percussions “Frescos” is the one of the major achievements of Viatcheslav Semionov. Perhaps it is the most significant work by him. Using accordion composer gives his thoughts about the most important questions of life. Images of the Concert were inspired by plenty of his artistic experiences, philosophical musings about God and Soul, life and death. Biblical narrative, embodied in the works of ancient masters of painting and iconography, inspired the composer expresses by using chamber orchestra and solo accordion a process of spiritual development of mankind through the Christian idea. Like all Viatcheslav Semionov’s compositions the Concert has a hidden meaning. There are three parts in the Concert – Murals – which have contrasting characters but united by a common aim. 1movement – Passacaglia – The Procession to Calvary. 2 movement – the image of the Mother of God. Final consists of two sections: Hell and Ascension and the celebration of the human soul. Orchestra embodies objective part associated with the nature of human society. Accordion cadencies are the confession of the soul, repentance and spiritual purification.

Although formally Concert has three movements, in fact it is fivefold composition. After the dramatic development of the Passacaglia (which has two sections) followed by soulful, very expressive second movement. Final in fact consists of two contrasting parts. Following a tense, wrought-up and expressive Allegro assai (Hell) appears completely separate episode Allegro gusto – “Ascension and the celebration of the human soul” (performed attacca). Both parts of the Final have contrasted intonation means. Allegro assai is full of feverish figurations, triton and polytonal dissonances in both accordion and orchestral parts. Emotional stress leads to a climax where bayan clusters reaching the rage. Then the following non-tempered glissando which depicting groans of souls in Hell leave unforgettable impression. Fracture occurs in the following further enlightened cadenza of accordion solo. The second part of the Final – is Coda, glorifying God. Perhaps this is one of the best moments in Semionov’s oeuvre.

Besides the extensive works such as Sonatas or Concert Semionov also creates chamber miniatures. Need for soulful, sincere utterance, which chronicled spiritual impulse led him to creation very lyrical and light pieces – “Two romantic meditations” and “In the land of dreams”.

I would like to point out another distinguishing feature of the Viatcheslav Semionov composer’s oeuvre – creating the transcriptions for accordion. His transcription greatly enriched accordion repertoire. I mention this aspect of Semionov oeuvre in the article about his compositions due to the fact that in Semionov also manifests himself as a composer in his transcriptions. “Transcription is a creative process, each time you need to find new techniques, and don’t follow the stencil of already found. You need to retell something and it should sound convincing on the instrument for which was not originally intended”,  says Viatcheslav Semionov. He doesn’t make just an arrangements for accordion, but reinterprets texture, articulation, pedaling without breaking composer’s intent. Here are the examples of his transcriptions of orchestral and organ scores – “Maslenitsa” by I.Stravinsky, Fantasy and Fugue g-moll by J.S. Bach, “Chaconne” by J.S. Bach – F. Busoni, “Campanella” by N. Paganini – F. Liszt and others. Semionov says that imitation of the sound of organ or orchestral instruments are not the main thing. He widely uses accordion timbre to emphasize the melodic structure, the nature of thematic material, the intonations of the themes.

About new composition by Viatcheslav Semionov – Sonata № 3 “Reminiscence of the Future” – you can read in the special exclusive interview with the composer.


List of works by Viatcheslav Semionov

“Bulgarian Suite”, 1975
“Kalina krasnaya/Guelder Rose”. Fantasia by memory of V. Shukshin, 1976
“Don Rhapsody № 1”, 1977
“Belolitsa-kruglolitsa”, Improvisation on Russian folk song, 1981
Children suite № 1, 1982.
“Old Estonian legend/Estonian Rhapsody”, 1983
“Lithuanian tune/Lithuanian Rhapsody”, 1984
Sonata № 1, 1984
“Lithuanian poetic picture”, 1986
“2 Belorussian themes/Belorussian Rhapsody”, 1987
“Ukrainian dumka/Ukrainian Rhapsody”, 1987
Children suite № 2, 1989
Caprice № 1, 1989
“Don Rhapsody” № 2, 1991
Sonata № 2 “Basquriad”, 1992
”Devotion”, 1993
“Brahmsiana”, 1996
Caprice № 2 “S.O.S.”, 2001
“Prophetic dream”, 2001
“Frescos”, Concert for bayan and chamber orchestra, 2003
“North pictures. Suite for accordion, 2003
“Divertimento”, 2005
Caprice № 3 “Polar lights”, 2006
“Two Romantic meditations”, 2007
“Balkan Rhapsody” for 2 accordions, 2007
“In the land of dreams”. Improvisation for accordion solo, 2008
“Musical offering” for accordion and domra, 2009
Valse-caprise, 2011
Sonata № 3 “Reminiscence of the Future”, 2013

Autore: Gianluca Bibiani

Gianluca Bibiani ha scritto 1221 articoli.

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