Aleksandr Lokshin

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Portrait of the Composer Aleksandr Lokshin by Tatyana Apraksina, 1987.

Aleksandr Lazarevich Lokshin (Russian: Александр Лазаревич Локшин) (1920–1987) was a Russian composer of classical music. He was born on September 19, 1920, in the town of Biysk, in the Altai Region, Western Siberia, and died in Moscow on June 11, 1987.

An admirer of Mahler and Alban Berg, he created his own musical language; he wrote eleven symphonies plus symphonic works including "Les Fleurs du Mal" (1939, on Baudelaire's poems), "Three Scenes from Goethe's Faust" (1973, 1980), the cantata "Mater Dolorosa" (1977, on verses from Akhmatova's "Requiem"), etc. Only his Symphony No.4 is purely instrumental; all other symphonies include vocal parts. Symphony No.3 by Lokshin was written on Kipling's verses, a ballet "Fedra" was staged on music of Symphony No.4. He also wrote a cycle of piano variations for Maria Grinberg (1953) and another one for Elena Kuschnerova (1982).


Early life[edit]

Composer's father Lazar Lokshin was an accountant, and his mother Maria Korotkina was a midwife. Lokshin's sister Maria was born in 1914. The family of the composer suffered from communist repression since Lokshin's father had been classified as a capitalist because of their small farm business. Their land and cattle were confiscated, and Maria was expelled from Medical School for a joke.

After the family moved to Novosibirsk, the young Lokshin was trained at school by excellent teachers who had been exiled to Siberia from Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Renowned pianist Alexei Stein, former professor of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, laid the foundations of Lokshin's piano playing.

In 1936 Lokshin arrived to Moscow with Alexei Stein's recommendation letter, was examined by Heinrich Neuhaus (Russian: Генрих Нейгауз), Director of the Moscow Conservatory, and Lokshin was accepted as a student of the Moscow Central Music School and then, after 6 months, as a student of the Moscow Conservatory. He studied composition with the composer Nikolai Myaskovsky.

In 1941 Lokshin presented his symphonic work "Les Fleurs du Mal" (recording BIS, 2010[1]) as his diploma work at graduation from the Moscow Conservatory. However, as the lyrics by Charles Baudelaire was considered as contradicting the communistic ideology by the censors, Lokshin was denied the Moscow Conservatory Diploma and was not allowed to take the state examinations. Nevertheless, he already was a member of the Composer's Union.

World War II[edit]

During World War II Lokshin was in Moscow and later back in Novosibirsk. In July 1941 Lokshin entered the people's volunteer corps but after a strong bout of stomach ulcers he proved to be unfit for military service. During the summer and the beginning of autumn 1941 he served as a fireman extinguishing incendiary bombs on the roof of Moscow conservatory during air raids; then he was evacuated to Novosibirsk. The arrival of the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra in Novosibirsk, led to Evgeny Mravinsky conducting the performance of Lokshin's vocal-symphonic poem "Wait for Me" (lyrics by Konstantin Simonov). The piece received high praise from Ivan Sollertinsky helping Lokshin's return to Moscow after the end of the war. He was able to take the state examinations, obtained the Conservatory diploma with "Wait for me" as the diploma work, and then with Nikolai Myaskovsky's support Lokshin was hired as Assistant Lecturer in Instrumentation at the Moscow Conservatory. In this capacity he worked during 1945–1948, the only working position held by the composer during his entire life.

The Zhdanov purges[edit]

At the height of the anti-cosmopolitism campaign and music purges of 1948, directed by Andrei Zhdanov, Lokshin was expelled from the Moscow Conservatory for the popularization of what was considered the ideologically alien music of Mahler, Alban Berg, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich among his students.[2] The efforts of Nikolai Myaskovsky, Maria Yudina, and Elena Gnessina to get him another job were in vain. For the rest of his life Lokshin supported his family by composing music for film and theater.

Accusation by Alexander Esenin-Volpin[edit]

After Stalin's death Lokshin was accused by Alexander Esenin-Volpin of being an informer for the Soviet secret police NKVD-KGB, responsible for the arrests of himself and Vera Prokhorova, who were incarcerated in the GULAG – accusations that have not been proven true.[3] However the composer's reputation was tarnished by rumours spreading across the Soviet cultural elite.

Performances of Lokshin's music[edit]

Performances of his music had become rare and were met with resistance from liberally thinking intellectuals, notably Gennady Rozhdestvensky who refused to perform Lokshin's music. Still, most of Lokshin's works have been performed and recorded occasionally. Among his compositions which were never performed there are Symphony No.6 on the verses by Alexander Blok and "The Cockroach" ("Tarakanishche"), a comic oratorio (on a poem by Korney Chukovsky, with anti-Stalin innuendo). Rudolf Barshai in collaboration with Viktor Popov prepared Symphony No.6 for performance, however the performance of this composition was prohibited by Communist party for the reason of being too mournful for the Soviet public. Among Lokshin's own compositions which he never heard performed are the cantata "Mater Dolorosa" (1977) on verse from Akhmatova's "Requiem", which was prohibited in the Soviet Union at the time. In 1981 Lokshin had passed the score of "Mater Dolorosa" abroad to Rudolf Barshai. However, it was impossible for R. Barshai to perform this composition in the West; otherwise the consequences for Lokshin could be unpredictable. The fact that Rudolf Barshai performed Lokshin’s Requiem on the closing of the IV International conference “Resistance in the Gulag” (Moscow, May, 29th 2002) was the first essential step on a way to posthumous rehabilitation of Lokshin.[4]


According to Lokshin's son the composer was a victim of calumny, and the real source of the charge that Lokshin was an informer were not the former Gulag prisoners, but Stalin’s secret police themselves, which had employed a practice of deceiving its victims by redirecting their suspicions. Lokshin's son claimed that the aim of these efforts was to defend an acting agent of the secret police. The arguments and documents obtained by Lokshin's son[5] persuaded Elena Bonner[6] to stand up for Lokshin. On January, 8th, 2009 Elena Bonner wrote: "From a certain point I have no more relation to the museum [i.e. the Sakharov Center] … since I did not find Alexander Lokshin’s [i.e.the composer's son] address [I ask] to let him know that I asked a member of the Public Commission to ask the director of the museum to take away from the site the material mentioned by Alexander Lokshin. And more than that – I am always on my guard when I consider all the supposedly unmasking materials. And in the most part of the cases I do not trust them." It is also impossible to ignore the historical fact that Lokshin's Requiem has been performed at the closing of IV Conference "Resistance in Gulag" (2002).[7] Other important documents concerning Lokshin's posthumous rehabilitation include:[8]

  • A Letter by academician Victor Vanslov addressed to the son of composer[9]
  • A document from the FSB of Russia[10]
  • An article by Alla Bossart[11]
  • Dimitry Bykov about Lokshin[12]

Additionally, three important sources have emerged which throw light on the conditions Lokshin operated under as a composer:

Works, editions and recordings[edit]

  • Fifth Symphony – two of Shakespeare's sonnets for baritone, string orchestra, and harp
  • Ninth Symphony – five poems of Leonid Martynov (1905–1980) for baritone and string orchestra
  • Eleventh Symphony – a sonnet by Luís de Camões for soprano and orchestra

List of compositions[edit]

  • [1939] “Les Fleurs du Mal”, symphonic poem to verses by Charles Baudelaire. For soprano and BSO. 25 min.
  • [1942] “Wait for Me”, symphonic poem to verses by K. Simonov. For mezzo-soprano and BSO. 15 min.
  • [1952] “Hungarian Fantasia” for violin and BSO. 15 min.
    • [1952] Author’s transcription of the “Hungarian Fantasia” for violin and piano. 15 min.
  • [1953] Variations for piano. 24 min.
  • [1955] Quintet for clarinet and string quartet. 23 min.
  • [1957] Symphony #1 (“Requiem”) for BSO and mixed chorus. To medieval Latin text (“Dies irae…”). 43 min.
  • [1960] “In Jungle”, suite for BSO. 25 min.
  • [1962] “Tarakanische”, brief comic oratorium for BSO and mixed chorus to verses by K. Tchukovsky. 12 min.
  • [1963] Symphony #2 (“Greek Epigrams”) for BSO and mixed chorus to verses by ancient Greek poets. 33 min.
  • [1966] Symphony #3 for baritone, BSO and man’s chorus to verses by R.Kipling. 32 min.
  • [1968] Symphony #4 for BSO. 15 min.
  • [1968] “Speaking Out-Loud”, symphonic poem for bass and BSO to verses by Majakovsky. 20 min.
  • [1969] Symphony #5 (“Shakespeare’s Sonnets”) for baritone, string orchestra and a harp. 17 min.
  • [1971] Symphony #6 for baritone, BSO and mixed chorus to verses by Alexander Block. 40 min.
  • [1972] Symphony #7 for contralto and chamber orchestra to verses by medieval Japanese poets. 20 min.
  • [1973] “Margaret’s Songs” for soprano and BSO to verses from Goethe’s “Faust”(translated into Russian by Pasternak).22 min.
  • [1973] Symphony #8 for tenore and BSO to verses by Pushkin (“Songs of Western Slabyans”). 28 min.
  • [1975] Symphony #9 for baritone and string orchestra to verses by Leonid Martynov. 23 min.
  • [1976] Symphony #10 for contralto, mixed chorus, BSO and organ to verses by N. Zabolotsky.33 min.
  • [1976] Symphony #11 for soprano and chamber orchestra to verse by L. Camoes. Dedicated to Rudolf Barshai. 20 min.
  • [1977] “Mater Dolorosa”, cantata for mezzo-soprano, BSO and mixed chorus to verses from Akhmatova’s “Requiem” and the Russian Funeral Service. 23 min.
  • [1978] Quintet for two violins, two violas and chello (in memoria of Dimitri Shostakovich). 23 min.
  • [1980] Three Scenes from Goethe’s “Faust”, mono-opera for soprano and BSO to verses from Goethe’s “Faust” (translated into Russian by Boris Pasternak). 36 min.
  • [1981] Quintet “From Lyrics by Francoi Villon” for tenore and string quartet to Villon’s verses translated (non-equirhythmically) into Russian by Erenburg. 13 min.
  • [1981] “The Art of Poetry” for soprano and chamber orchestra to verses by N.Zabolotsky. 9 min.
    • [1981] Author’s transcription of “The Art of Poetry” for soprano and piano.
  • [1982] Prelude and Theme with Variations for piano. Dedicated to Elena Kuschnerova. 8 min.
  • [1983] The First Symphonietta for tenore and chamber ensemble to verses by Igor Severyanin. 13 min.
  • [1983] “Three Poems by Fiodor Sologub” for soprano and piano. 13 min.
  • [1983] Variations for Bass and Wind Band to early verses by N.Tikhonov. 13 min.
  • [1984] String Quartet. 23 min.
  • [1985] The Second Symphonietta for soprano and enlarged chamber orchestra to verses by F.Sologub. 15 min.
  • [1961 ?] “On the Lakes of Kazakhstan”, suite for BSO. 10 min.
  • [1960–1970] Piano pieces for children.
  • [1947] “Childish Suite” for two pianos. 19 min.


  1. ^ "Lokshin – Les fleurs du mal on BIS". 
  2. ^ "Barshai dirige La Verdi con musiche di Lokshin e Beethoven". La Voce. 8 October 2008. Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
  3. ^ Smith, Steve (February 28, 2010). "Loosening the Reins on Composers After Stalin". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  4. ^ "Мосправда". Retrieved 10 January 2016. 
  5. ^ "Alexander L Lokshin". Retrieved 10 January 2016. 
  6. ^ "Сетевой портал "Заметки по еврейской истории" • Просмотр темы – Александр А. Локшин ОТКРЫТЫЕ ПИСЬМА". 2008-11-20. Retrieved 2010-08-17. 
  7. ^; in this connection see also
  8. ^ "Composer Alexander Lazarevich Lokshin – Homepage". Retrieved 10 January 2016. 
  9. ^ Dear Alexander Alexandrovich! You know that I do highly appreciate your father, Alexander Lazarevich Lokshin, because of the knowledge I received from him when studying at the Conservatory; I have written about it in my book “The Comprehencion of Art” in detail. My acknowledgment to him is immutable. But after having read the article by V. Prokhorova in “The Musical Revue”, I was shocked. I hastily believed to this article and referred to it in the chapter about the tragic character of Shostakovich’s music in my new book and made suppositions which I clearly should not make, since, except Prokhorova’s article, I had no reasons for these suppositions. I do understand that I had unreasonably blackened your father, I do deeply regret and repent of my deed. I feel bitterness when understanding that I caused you a pain by doubting of your father’s dignity. Now, when I remind him, he stays in my mind as an outstanding creative person entirely absorbed in music and his own spiritual life and incapable of any mean deed. Excuse me for my failure. In future I‘ll try to find a way to improve my fault. Sincerely yours, V. Vanslov 05.01.2010
  10. ^ FSB of Russia Department of Archive Funds Registration 16.02.01 №10/А-Л-63 Moscow to A.A.LokshinOn a commission from FSB leadership your request is considered at the Central Archive of FSB. We do inform you that the Archive contains no materials concerning Lokshin Alexander Lazarevich. Assistant chief of the Department N.A.Chichulin
  11. ^ As to the true NKVD-KGB informer, whose name wanted to know Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, the Lokshins have found him. And pinned him down. But, in spite of a great temptation, we shall not arrange a civil penalty. The person who had spoiled the lives of father and son is now dead.
  12. ^ "already in the twentieth century Alexander Lokshin, whom Shostakovich considered a genius was accused of informing (as proved by his son – falsely).
  13. ^ VICTOR POPOV [1] ABOUT LOKSHIN (An interview which hasn't entered into Iossif Pasternak's film “Genius of Evil”) It turns out so that really Lokshin is a prominent phenomenon in our music, in Russian music, a prominent phenomenon. And I have been so lucky that in 1970s [I got acquainted with Lokshin], just thanks to Rudolf Borisovich [Barshai] . During that time we have been actively working, because he had a chamber orchestra, whereas I conducted a boys’ chorus . We often sang music by Bach … And once Rudolf Borisovich has told me that there is such an idea: to perform the Sixth symphony by composer Lokshin. Naturally, I didn't know almost anything about Lokshin. I knew that there is such a composer and that he had turned out to be in quite a difficult situation, because, once, having written a cantata "Tarakanishche", he has got to deep disgrace since there were such kind people who have prompted that tarakanishche is our leader and teacher». And consequently he had quite a difficult destiny and very few people knew his music. And here Rudolf Borisovich has suggested me to perform the Sixth symphony, and the Sixth symphony is written on verses of our great poet of the beginning of the 20th century, [Alexander] Block. And consequently, with great pleasure I have decided to get acquainted with this music. And I have come to his [Lokshin's] home … He lived near to Vernadsky avenue, in a small apartment. It is necessary to tell that his living conditions were, of course, rather mediocre. A terrible piano, but he has sat down, began to play and at once has grasped me. You know, after this listening, with huge pleasure I have worked over this composition with student's chorus of the Gnessin Institute. And we should perform it in an open concert. But I have left with children's chorus of radio and television on tour to Czechoslovakia. When I have returned, the rector told me that this concert is cancelled under the recommendation of a District Committee of [ the Communist] Party which, seemingly, he has informed by himself about the forthcoming concert. The first secretary of the District Committee of Party … has told that this composition can't be executed at all and it can't be executed in the [forthcoming] concert. Well, naturally, I had a scandal with the rector and after that I have submitted a resignation from Gnessin Institute where I had been working for 15 years. So, you see, how fate has brought me together with Lokshin … And now [in 2002], when Rudolf Borisovich already dreamed for a long time of that we have sung this composition "Requiem" [by Lokshin], we even wanted to perform this composition with several foreign choruses and to make such a rather big tour: Germany, China and Japan. But for some reasons this plan, unfortunately, hasn't been executed. But here, you see, casually, but all the same we have come to this composition [i.e. to "Requiem" by Lokshin]. And, I hope, that it is its first performance in Russia, but not the last one. Moscow, 2002 [1] Victor Sergeevich Popov (1934–2008) — the founder, the artistic director and the main conductor of the Big Children's Chorus of the Russian state radio company The Voice of Russia, the artistic director of Academy of choral art, the National artist of the USSR.
  14. ^ A LETTER BY BORIS TISHCHENKO B.I.Tishchenko to A.A.Lokshin, son of the composer Dear Sasha! Recently I have received your book «Genius of Evil» [the first edition of the book is meant]. … I have always loved Alexander Lazarevich, his music and never trusted any hearings about him. I want to recall once again how Dmitry Dmitrievich Shostakovich and I have come to an execution of the "Requiem" by A[lexander] L[azarevich] in the Tchaikovsky-hall (Latin words have been replaced with the words hastily written by … and devoted to victims of war) and D.D. looked around the thin hall and has told: «Really to eight-million Moscow there were no eight hundred persons to hear the great music by Lokshin?» Then I have happened upon Natasha Gutman in the bus and have told her about this episode, and she has told: «Public is right when ignoring this music. » – «Why!?» – «Because …» Then she became somewhat confused and I do not remember in what words has retold me one of the hearings. I have sharply objected and at once have felt, whence the wind blows [откуда ветер дует], and immediately an alienation arose between me and Natasha. And Dmitry Dmitrievich was a man of principle and a very sensitive person in questions of this sort. Somehow I have told him that sometimes I come to a very grounded in the history and the theory of music person to fill up the store of my knowledge. D.D. grew somewhat restive and, after having thought, has told: «On your place I wouldn't associate with the person who serves in the secret police.» I won't name this person, as he has gone abroad long ago and has died there. But in such affairs D.D., as I think, was never mistaken. <…> Yesterday (14.V) I have given, in Conservatory, one more lesson on Alexander Lazarevich Lokshin and have shown to students «Margaret's Songs». The impression was tremendous. In the morning when I had been preparing for this lesson, I heard once more the old gramophone record, presented by you, and nearly haven't burst into tears. At the lesson I showed a CD [with music by Lokshin], with which I had been presented by Rudolf Borisovich Barshai. At the same lesson I have shown the 7th symphony by Alexander Lazarevich, recorded on the mentioned CD, with the score presented by the author with a donative inscription. Music by Lokshin will sound at us henceforth. … Your Boris Tishchenko On May, 15th 2001 P.S. Warm greetings to Tatyana Borisovna!
  15. ^ A LETTER BY MARIA YUDINA (on February,28th, 1961). Maria Yudina's letter is addressed to her old friend, a historian of the book V.S.Ljublinsky. It has been written by Yudina just after a meeting with Lokshin and contains such lines about him [1]: «Now I will tell you something majestic, tragical, joyful and to a certain extent secret. Listen: I have written to Lokshin a very little “professional” quasi-letter on a question in connection with Mahler, because Lokshin knows Mahler better than anybody. He has written an answer to me where he intensely asks me to see him. I have agreed. Yesterday he has played to me his “ Requiem ” which he had been writing many years, or, to be more precise, “tried to begin writing” and threw it away and, at last, "all at once" has written it 2 1/2 years ago. On the full text of Requiem, fuller than Mozart has used . What have I told him when has finished playing? – «I have always known that you are a genius». Yes, so it is, and it is stronger than many because of whom I «break spears» and equals now only to Shostakovich (not to the last one) and Stravinsky. This composition cannot be performed neither at us nor abroad, which is clear … It is as Bach, Mozart, Mahler, and the two abovementioned. He is absolutely quiet knowing that so it is and that it won't be executed. Shostakovich now really idolizes him. Only a few people know about it . … I am glad that this man has carried out his problem, knowingly lives on Earth, that I wasn't mistaken, having faith in him, and wasn't mistaken, when helping him within usual life, and was a friend for him in unlucky days and hours . That’s what I wish to say. Don't become angry.» NOTE – editorial comment: The mentioned meeting has occurred after five years after rupture of relations between Lokshin and Maria Yudina (1956) . The rupture has happened because of hearings about Lokshin dismissed with the aid of KGB . It is clear from the Yudina’s letter that she finally believed in Lokshin’s innocence. What has forced her to write to Lokshin her " professional quasi-letter" and hence create an occasion for a meeting? Now, after having read the letter by Boris Tishchenko, it is clear that it was not Mahler, but Shostakovich who really caused her to write the “quasi-letter”. In fact, being the first secretary of the Union of soviet composers he knew all informers acting in the mentioned Union and, consequently, knew that Lokshin did not belong to this sort of public. [1] This letter has been first published by A.M.Kuznetsov (“Zvezda”, №9, 1999, p. 175–176).[2] Yudina M.V. Letters (1959–1961). Moscow, ROSSPEN, 2009, p. 490. [3] Ibid.

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