“The Russian Notebook” by V. A. Gavrilin appeared rather unexpectedly in the middle of the 1960ies. Quite of a sudden musicians felt doubts about the planned tendency of the Soviet music future development, which seemed progressive that time because of the fashionable technologies having rushed out of the Western European avant-garde spheres. However, the chamber composition by the young Leningrad author stated decisively the Russian arts project, blazed, but not without exaggerations and losses and devoted to the high classics (including the modern one) to penetrate into folk strata by means of its spirituality and sincerity.
Meanwhile, the «Russian Notebook» did not resemble traditional socialistic realistic imaginative types. Everything was novel in it, everything was striking: the subject, verses, vocal, facture and piano parts. Today there may be distinctly recognized those basical circumstances in the social musical consciousness, having prepared enthusiastic perception of Gavrilin’s masterpieces. First of all these are the composers of the «new folklore trend»: R. Shchedrin with his First Piano Concerto, the ballet «Hunchback Horse» and opera «Not Just Love» (with the expressive part of Varvara); S. Slonimsky with his «Songs of Vagabonds» and the First Symphony; B. Tishchenko with his «Sad Songs» and Piano Concerto, while the whole galaxy was crowned by G. V. Sviridov with his popular songs to the verses by R. Burns, Oratorio compositions to S. Yesenin and V. Mayakovsky. This ground of the Russian music nourished by the benevolent folklore roots was revived by the «Russian Notebook», that let Gavrilin in, representing the nature of great individual aesthetics and turbulent enthralling emotions. G. V. Sviridov remembered D. Shostakovichs full of tears, when they met behind the wings after the «Russian Notebook» had been performed in Moscow. Those were the tears of joy welling out of the great master’s eyes, for the «Russian Notebook»’s music worried and touched him to throes.
The «Seasons» is the vocal cycle for mean voice (mezzo soprano or baritone) and piano, which Gavrilin called «songs» dates 1969. Its 4 contrasting movements sign 4 periods of the years: from Winter to Autumn. The composer bases traditiobal texts («Winter», «Spring» and first half of the «Summer»), poems by A. T. Tvardovsky (the «Summer» — 2nd half) and a well-known poem «Autumn» by S. A. Yesenin. Of course, there is no necessity of proving the existing common features between Yesenin and Tvardovsky, having found their poetical devices in folklore songs — lyrical, for season rite and just dancing ones. Unpretentious subject of the cycle, representing enchanting Russian landscapes (the 1st and last movements) and ingenuous country life arouse pensive thoughts of the charming pastorale hasn’t yet undergone modern civil interference. Simple kindness, now doleful, now raptorous and lucid, now naughty, now dreamy — all these emotions embrace this music emanating from the pure Russian folk song, so faraway from the official optimistic maximas.
Gavrilin used to call himself Sviridov’s pupil. This cycle demonstrates this succession, although Sviridov himself hadn’t ever taught Gavrilin.
Russian notebook. Vocal Cycle for Mezzo Soprano and Piano. Traditional verses
The Snowball-Tree is Standing Above the River (Music text example)
Once Upon a Time
In the Happy Month of May
Seasons. Songs for Mean Voice and Piano
Winter. Traditional verses (Music text example)
Spring. Traditional verses
1. Traditional verses
2. Verses by A. Tvardovsky
Autumn. Verses by S. Yesenin
Summer. The first version. Traditional verses (Music text example)