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Culture Reviews
The Scriabin Museum classical performances
Scriabin Museum 
By Sarah Sly
The young lady I tutor in English asked me the other day if I hated Russia. "You always grumble about being here . . ."

Shocked by her observation, I explained it's due to disenchantment with world politics, but innerly resolved to re-adjust my attitude. Henceforth, in line with a fresh attempt to seek out and savour the "other Russia" (as she put it), I vowed to breathe culture weekly.

Wednesday evenings at seven, modest concerts are held in the cozy hall of Scriabin Museum. The Museum is hidden in a little alley off Stary Arbat. You can find it by walking towards Arbatskaya from the McDonalds and turning left onto Bolshoi Nikolopeskovckiy pereulok. The Moscow State Academic Philharmonic provides performers while about seventy blue-plastic footed housewives compose the audience. They're really cute.

Once we all settled into the warm, golden walled hall, an adorable Russian lady with blue eye-shadow and halo hair stood up to announce the program. She kept mixing up what she was supposed to say but only because she was lost in the joy of presenting such talented artists. "Tonight an award-winning young lady will sing for you." "!!!!Play the piano!!!!" "Oh yes, of course, a pianist."

Chopin must have sat and listened a lot to rain fall, and brooks babble and rivers rush. So we sat and listened to lots of interlocking patterns of complicated water drops. Scriabin’s portrait benevolently surveyed the proceedings. Chopin had been a spring of inspiration for the late composer so he seemed pleased with the rendition.

Have you ever read a novel about Russian aristocrats? Along with sitting in drawing rooms speaking French, they go to the theatre and inevitably attend balls. Old dames’ gossip. Little Masha gets excited about her entry into society. The gentlemen smoke cigars and plan who to propose for a whirl. Meanwhile, corseted coquettes in jewels and satin, wax melancholy imagining their vexation if adored Alexandr doesn’t ask them to dance the Mazurka.

Ever intrigued by why the mazurka so appealed, it was a delight to hear about ten variations of the Polish folk dance. It almost seemed unusually rigid for a favourite song (there were surprising light moments in the rhythm), but apparently it's accompanied by foot stomping and heel clicking. The girls must have had a thing for that. The Mazurka would also be the last number . . .

Scriabin is a composer to be respected, especially as he allows Muscovites to use his home for concerts - so along with offering him a bouquet of red roses, the pianist dedicated an entire half show to his compositions. I had never heard Scriabin's work before. What marvellous ruminous music! This man was a thinker. He pondered how the melody felt while forging the line's progression instead of just intuiting it. The first song sounded like a plough tilling a field while leaving the top layer of soil unturned. In the second it was the same mechanism, but now mixing the soil and the plants above. I thought it was great. I'm going to buy a Scriabin CD and listen to it when I think about politics.

The Scriabin Museum hosts classical performances every Wednesday at seven. For a taste of Russian culture in a comfortable setting surrounded by unpretentious people, check it out. In February, the second and twenty-third will be vocal performances. On the ninth a quartet playing Shostavovich and on the sixteenth a chance to hear Scriabin, Ravel, Poulenc and Mussorgskii pieces.

29.01.05
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