A Russian violin-maker inspired by Italy and a British composer inspired by Russia combine their talents to breathe new life into a forgotten instrument.
Rabinovich believes the secret lies in techniques of treating the wood the Italians developed and used in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Russian master sought to rediscover their long-lost methods.
"The main secret is in the method used for grinding the wood, which gave a special structure to the material," Rabinovich said. "The capillary tubes of the wood become hollow after this special processing. They start to act as resonators. Each of them answers to a certain frequency, to the sound of a certain pitch. My task is to free the natural capillaries from everything which might prevent them from resounding and then strengthen them with special polymeric substances."
The Italian masters used amber from the slopes of Mount Etna, obtaining an elastic yet solid and chemically-neutral polymer. Working with Baltic amber, Rabinovich has reproduced the same process in the laboratory. He buys his wood - maple, fir-tree, pine and ebony - in southern Europe. Ultra-violet lamps replace grey St. Petersburg skies to replicate the warmth of the Italian sun.
Rabinovich applied such techniques when making the reproduction quin-tons for which Dyson has written his new work. For Dyson, the premier of "Quintot" on Sunday is simply the latest step in a long and unusual journey to becoming an accomplished composer.
In 1996, at the age of 47, Dyson started on that journey by quitting his job as a civil servant, divorcing his wife and selling his home in Essex, U.K., to move to Russia. He came to St. Petersburg to study with composer Boris Tishchenko, who is widely recognized as having been Dmitry Shostakovich's favorite pupil.
Since then, St. Petersburg has been a constant source of inspiration for Dyson, with Russia serving as the backdrop for many of his compositions. In December 2001, Olympia CD, a British label that specializes in Russian classical music, released Dyson's first album of original works.
In March 2002, the Murmansk State Chamber Orchestra gave a series of world premiere performances of Dyson's concerto grosso for violin, viola, cello and strings, called "After Winter, There Always Comes Spring" in Murmansk and several other towns in northwest Russia. Inspired by the composer's reflections on the first winter he spent in St. Petersburg, the work paints a "wintry violence" through harsh, grating rhythms and rioting harmonies.
The concerto enjoyed its St. Petersburg premiere in February of 2004, performed by the Klassika orchestra and conducted by Leontyev.
Dyson's music often reflects his personal experience of living in Russia.
"Sometimes, this comes to me in the form of visual impressions such as the stark outline of St. Petersburg buildings in the bright sunshine against a cold, winter sky," Dyson recounts. "Sometimes, it comes from the poetry of Anna Akhmatova."
Another work, "Missa Brevis. I Heard A Seagull Crying in the Wind," was influenced by the tragedy of the Kursk nuclear submarine, which sank in August 2001, killing all 118 of its crew.
Dyson first tried his hand at composing at the age of 16.
"I just wanted to see if I could do it," he said, remembering the classical concerts that he attended while going to school in Wales. "It was then when I decided that what I want to do in life is to write music."
But when Dyson considered entering the Royal Academy of Music in 1969, it turned out that, at that time, the academy did not offer a major in composition. All students had to major in an instrument, and Dyson wasn't interested in this. So he found other ways to follow his dream.
Seeking financial security, Dyson took a job in the civil service. He felt he wouldn't have been able to make a living writing music.
Dyson received his first exposure to Russian classical music aged 17, and one of the first recordings he came across was that of Dmitry Shostakovich's Second Piano Concerto. Those initial impressions were overwhelming and they remain vivid for him to this day.
The composer describes his latest work for the quinton as somewhat "backward-looking," in that it looks toward the 20th century musical idiom.
"The piece is written in contemporary classical style, and some people may find there some influences of Shostakovich and Paul Hindemith," Dyson said.
The piece is written for five quintons, but it has proved quite a challenge to get five musicians together to learn the new instrument.
With this in mind, Dyson has also written an arrangement of the work for one quinton and.a string orchestra. It is this arrangement which will receive its world premiere at the forthcoming concert at Herzen University.
28.01.2005 "Spb Times "