Scriabin's chromatic audition and Bulgakov's sheet music. Musical stories from museums

October 8

The stories filled with music are linked with artefacts in the museum funds and permanent exhibitions. We are inviting you to look into four Moscow museums and imagine how Marina Tsvetaeva listens to gramophone recordings of gypsy romances, Alexander Scriabin arranges home light and music concerts for friends, and Mikhail Bulgakov is looking for an old edition of the Nutcracker sheet music for his friend, conductor of the Bolshoi Theater Alexander Melik-Pashaev.

Sheet music of Mikhail Bulgakov’s friend

Museum of M.A. Bulgakov

Mikhail Bulgakov met Alexander Melik-Pashaev, who later became the chief conductor of the Bolshoi Theater, in October 1935. On November 10 of the same year, the writer's wife Elena made an entry in her diary: “Carmen at the Bolshoi Theater. After the performance, Yakov L. and Melik-Pashayev dined with us."

There is reason to believe that during this very dinner Mikhail Bulgakov presented the guest with French sheet music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker. The sheet music, possibly bought from a second-hand bookseller, contains two dedicatory inscriptions. The first, dated 1922, reports that the sheet music was presented by a music teacher “for good memory”, to a certain Lyusia Yanovskaya. These lines are crossed out, below Bulgakov's hand added: “The dedication is canceled. to Alexander Melik-Pashaev". This humorous tone reflects the nature of their friendship, both with a great sense of humor, they often pranked each other. According to recollections of Melik-Pashayev’s son, Bulgakov often parodied him.

In the 1930s, when they became friends, Bulgakov was going through difficult times. His books were not published, plays were banished, and he was persecuted in the press. Fewer guests were coming to the Bulgakovs' house.

“It is true, the circle of guests has noticeably narrowed recently, but only because guests were tiring him. He preferred only close friends to come. Of these close friends, the first ones to name are Vladimir Vladimirovich Dmitriev, Pyotr Vladimirovich Williams and Alexander Shamilievich Melik-Pashaev," — this is how Bulgakov's friend, play writer Sergei Ermolinsky, described this period.

Melik-Pashayev remained Bulgakov’s close friend. After leaving the Moscow Art Theater, Bulgakov got a job at the Bolshoi as a librettist consultant. He and Melik-Pashayev were staging the opera "Minin and Pozharsky" in 1936-1937, but the public would not see it — the performance was banned.

After his play "Batum" about Stalin's youth was rejected in 1939, Bulgakov’s health began to deteriorate. He died on March 10, 1940. Soon after Bulgakov’s death, Melik-Pashayev remembered about the gift that gave start to their friendship, in a letter to the writer's widow:

“There is a postcard in front of me. Thoughtful affectionate eyes look at me from it. A large, intelligent forehead is wrinkled by large handwriting. It is all! It is all in the whole world that is left of my beloved friend, and also Nutcracker piano four-hand sheet music, presented by him a long time ago, in the first days of happy acquaintance.“

Melik-Pashayev outlived his friend by almost a quarter of a century. He died in 1964. Alexander Shamilievich Melik-Pashayev was buried at the Novodevichy cemetery, like Bulgakov.

Marina Tsvetaeva’s gramophone

House-Museum of Marina Tsvetaeva

Tsvetaeva's passion for music was instilled by her mother. Marina as a child went to music school, learned to play the piano and enjoyed listening to her mother's talented playing. In the parental house in the Trekhprudny Lane, both piano and guitar music sounded. The gramophone invented in the turn of the century and making it possible to listen to music records, had its opponents and lovers. Marina Tsvetaeva was among the latter.

The gramophone appeared at the Tsvetaevs house in the fall of 1911, after Marina spent summer in Koktebel, where she got acquainted with her future husband, Sergei Efron. Then it was an absolute novelty — the gramophone was patented in the USA in the fall of 1887. Inventor Emil Berliner, who also created a microphone, made the first gramophone based on the phonograph, invented independently by Charles Cros and Thomas Edison. In the early 20th century, the sound-recording quality improved, and from the late 1920s it was used for the talking pictures.

Marina Tsvetaeva dreamed of a gramophone for as much as a year. The choice fell on a very modest, inexpensive device, which, however, gave her and her family a lot of pleasure. What records did Tsvetaeva prefer? It is impossible to establish this for certain. Her daughter Ariadne recalled “gramophone with tube like a giant dodder: the voices of gypsies lived inside." Gypsy romances were extremely popular in the era of the Silver Age, Tsvetaeva acquired Vary Panina and Anastasia Vyaltseva records. But there were also recordings of Russian and European classic music, familiar and beloved from childhood.

House-Museum of Marina Tsvetaeva

Ariadne Efron describes the gramophone with a cherry wooden tube, which Tsvetaeva had in her room in the Borisoglebsky Lane apartment, rented in the fall of 1914. Before leaving for emigration in 1922, the gramophone had to be sold, like the few things that had survived the war, which Tsvetaeva recalled in The Tale of Sonechka:

“The gramophone sang and played to us — everything that it could, everything that we “could”: our youth, our love, our grief, and our separation. And when later, before leaving Russia, I sold it to a Tatar, I sold part of my soul too — and all my youth."

The House-Museum of Marina Tsvetaeva is located at 6 Borisoglebsky Lane. In the memorial apartment, you can see a slightly different gramophone than that of the poetess. This tin tube device of the early 20th century is one of the gifts accepted by the museum. By the way, you can listen to Tsvetaeva's favorite music online in the special project "Music Box" on the museum site.

Scriabin's light organ

Photo by Maxim Denisov,

Alexander Scriabin was an extraordinary person, in many ways ahead of his time. It is him that we owe the invention of color music — the composer was the first to combine sound, light and color in one piece of music. The clavier à lumières ("keyboard with lights") for home performances was made according to his own sketches to accompany the performance of the symphonic poem "Prometheus" (1910). Scriabin introduced into its sheet music the part of the “Luce” (light), a light line intended to be played on the keyboard with lights. Scriabin saw the image of Prometheus, the ancient Greek hero who brought fire to people, as a bright flame. In the light line of the “Prometheus”, two colors, violet and red, had special meaning.

The ability to see sound is called synesthesia in contemporary science. This phenomenon has been known since the end of the 19th century — at that time, composers who, like Scriabin, had it, said that they had chromatic audition. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, in particular, had chromatic audition. But Scriabin was the first to share it with the public.

However, the first public performance of "Prometheus" in 1911 took place without performing the light line. The composer, who played the grand piano on the day of the premiere, made this decision himself — the keyboard with lights was failed to be made on time. For quite a long time "Prometheus" was performed in large halls as an ordinary symphonic work. And only the composer's friends knew the real "Prometheus" — the light and sound music performance took place at Scriabin's house. The composer chose the apartment in the Bolshoi Nikolopeskovsky Lane, where his memorial museum is located today, particularly because it had power supply.

Guests were gathering, and the hosts closed the curtains tightly and turned off the overhead light. Scriabin played the grand piano, and his wife — the keyboard with lights. Both instruments are now in the same place as it was almost 100 years ago — in the study.

The first harmonica

Museum of Russian Harmonica named after A.M. Mirek

One of the most popular musical instruments, the harmonica, is also considered to be one of the most mysterious instruments. There are several versions of its appearance. According to one, the harmonica was invented in England, the other ascribes its invention to Berlin master of the 19th century Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann, and according to the third, the first harmonica appeared in the Russian Empire at the end of the 18th century. This version was also shared by Alfred Mirek (1922-2009), art critic and founder of the Museum of Russian Harmonica. The instrument inventor, according to his theory, was master of organ art of Czech origin František Kiršnik. Alfred Mirek reconstructed the Kiršnik's first harmonica, which is now in the museum collection.

Kiršnik lived in Denmark, Germany and other countries. In the 1770s, at the invitation of Catherine II, he arrived in St. Petersburg to repair organs. In his spare time in his workshop, he was looking for new ways of sound producing. The master presented to the public the result of his experiments — the harmonica, in 1783. The instrument was strikingly different from the harmonica we know today. Kiršnik's harmonica was tabletop — its clavier was like that of a piano. To play it, musician operated the built-in air bag with one hand, and pressed keys with the other. The sound was produced through a metal vibrator activated by air stream.

An important feature of the harmonica was that it needed no tuning. Very soon thereafter, Kiršnik's invention became popular among keyboard professionals and amateurs.


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