Yakov Izrailevich Zak (Yakov Zak) |

Yakov Izrailevich Zak (Yakov Zak) |

Yakov Zak

Date of birth
Date of death
pianist, teacher
the USSR
Yakov Izrailevich Zak (Yakov Zak) |

“It is absolutely indisputable that he represents the largest musical figure.” These words of Adam Wieniawski, chairman of the jury of the Third International Chopin Competition, were said in 1937 to the 24-year-old Soviet pianist Yakov Zak. The elder of Polish musicians added: “Zak is one of the most wonderful pianists I have ever heard in my long life.” (Soviet laureates of international music competitions. – M., 1937. P. 125.).

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… Yakov Izrailevich recalled: “The competition required an almost inhuman effort. The very procedure of the competition turned out to be extremely exciting (it’s a little easier for the current contestants): the jury members in Warsaw were placed right on the stage, almost side by side with the speakers.” Zak was sitting at the keyboard, and somewhere very close to him (“I literally heard their breath …”) were artists whose names were known to the entire musical world – E. Sauer, V. Backhaus, R. Casadesus, E. Frey and others. When, having finished playing, he heard applause – this, contrary to customs and traditions, the members of the jury clapped – at first it didn’t even seem that they had anything to do with him. Zach was awarded the first prize and one more, additional – a bronze laurel wreath.

The victory in the competition was the culmination of the first stage in the formation of an artist. Years of hard work led to her.

Yakov Izrailevich Zak was born in Odessa. His first teacher was Maria Mitrofanovna Starkova. (“A solid, highly qualified musician,” Zach recalled with a grateful word, “who knew how to give students what is commonly understood as a school.”) The gifted boy walked in his pianistic education with a quick and even step. In his studies there was perseverance, and purposefulness, and self-discipline; from childhood he was serious and hardworking. At the age of 15, he gave the first clavierabend in his life, speaking to music lovers of his native city with works by Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin, Debussy.

In 1932, the young man entered the graduate school of the Moscow Conservatory to G. G. Neuhaus. “Lessons with Genrikh Gustavovich were not lessons in the usual interpretation of the word,” Zak said. “It was something more: artistic events. They “burned” with their touches with something new, unknown, exciting … We, the students, seemed to be introduced into the temple of sublime musical thoughts, deep and complex feelings … ”Zak almost did not leave Neuhaus’s class. He was present at almost every lesson of his professor (in the shortest possible time he mastered the art of benefiting for himself from the advice and instructions given to others); listened inquisitively to the game of his comrades. Many statements and recommendations of Heinrich Gustavovich were recorded by him in a special notebook.

In 1933-1934, Neuhaus was seriously ill. For several months, Zak studied in the class of Konstantin Nikolaevich Igumnov. Much here looked different, although no less interesting and exciting. “Igumnov possessed an amazing, rare quality: he was able to capture with a single glance the form of a musical work as a whole and at the same time saw every feature of it, every “cell”. Few people loved and, most importantly, knew how to work with a student on a performance detail, in particular, like him. And how much important, necessary things he managed to say, it happened, in a narrow space in just a few measures! Sometimes you look, for one and a half or two hours of the lesson, a few pages have been passed. And the work, like a kidney under a ray of spring sun, literally filled with juice … “

In 1935, Zak took part in the Second All-Union Competition of Performing Musicians, taking third place in this competition. And two years later came the success in Warsaw, which was described above. The victory in the capital of Poland turned out to be all the more joyful because, on the eve of the competition, the contestant himself did not at all consider himself to be among the favorites in the depths of his soul. Least of all prone to overestimating his abilities, more cautious and prudent than arrogant, he had been preparing for the competition for a long time almost on the sly. “At first I decided not to let anyone in on my plans. Taught the program completely on my own. Then he ventured to show it to Genrikh Gustavovich. He generally approved. He began to help me prepare for a trip to Warsaw. That, perhaps, is all … “

The triumph at the Chopin Competition brought Zak to the forefront of Soviet pianism. The press started talking about him; there was a tempting prospect of tours. It is known that there is no test more difficult and tricky than the test of glory. Young Zak survived him too. Honors did not confuse his clear and sober mind, did not dull his will, did not deform his character. Warsaw became just one of the turned pages in his biography of a stubborn, tireless worker.

A new stage of work was initiated, and nothing more. Zak during this period teaches a lot, brings an ever broader and more solid foundation for his concert repertoire. While honing his playing style, he develops his own performing style, his own style. Musical criticism of the thirties in the person of A. Alschwang notes: “I. Zach is a solid, balanced, accomplished pianist; his performing nature is not prone to external expansiveness, to violent manifestations of a hot temperament, to passionate, unrestrained hobbies. This is a smart, subtle and careful artist.” (Alshwang A. Soviet Schools of Pianoism: Essay on the Second // Soviet Music. 1938. No. 12. P. 66.).

Attention is drawn to the selection of definitions: “solid, balanced, complete. Clever, subtle, careful…” The artistic image of the 25-year-old Zach was formed, as it is easy to see, with sufficient clarity and certainty. Let’s add – and finality.

In the fifties and sixties, Zak was one of the recognized and most authoritative representatives of the Soviet piano performance. He goes his own way in art, he has a different, well-remembered artistic face. What is the face mature, completely established masters?

He was and still is a musician who is customarily categorized—with a certain convention, of course—into the category of “intellectuals.” There are artists whose creative expressions are evoked mainly by spontaneous, spontaneous, largely impulsive feelings. To some extent, Zach is their antipode: his performance speech was always carefully thought out in advance, illuminated by the light of far-sighted and insightful artistic thought. Accuracy, certainty, impeccable consistency of interpretative intentions – as well as his pianistic incarnations is a hallmark of Zach’s art. You can say – the motto of this art. “His performance plans are confident, embossed, clear…” (Grimikh K. Concerts of post-graduate pianists of the Moscow Conservatory // Sov. Music. 1933. No. 3. P. 163.). These words were said about the musician in 1933; with equal reason – if not more – they could be repeated ten, and twenty, and thirty years later. The very typology of Zach’s artistic thinking made him not so much a poet as a skillful architect in musical performance. He really “lined up” the material superbly, his sound constructions were almost always harmonious and unmistakably correct by calculation. Is this why the pianist achieved success where many, and notorious, of his colleagues failed, in the Second Concerto of Brahms, Sonata, op. 106 Beethoven, in the most difficult cycle of the same author, Thirty-three Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli?

Zak the artist not only thought in a peculiar and subtle way; the range of his artistic feelings was also interesting. It is known that the emotions and feelings of a person, if they are “hidden”, not advertised or flaunted, eventually acquire a special attraction, a special power of influence. So it is in life, and so it is in art. “It is better not to say than to retell,” the famous Russian painter P. P. Chistyakov instructed his students. “The worst thing is to give more than is necessary,” KS Stanislavsky supported the same idea, projecting it into the creative practice of the theater. Due to the peculiarities of his nature and mental warehouse, Zak, playing music on the stage, was usually not too wasteful on intimate revelations; rather, he was stingy, laconic in expressing feelings; his spiritual and psychological collisions could sometimes seem like a “thing in itself.” Nevertheless, the pianist’s emotional utterances, albeit low-profile, as if muted, had their own charm, their own charm. Otherwise, it would be difficult to explain why he managed to gain fame by interpreting such works as Chopin’s concerto in F minor, Liszt’s Petrarch’s Sonnets, the A major sonata, op. 120 Schubert, Forlan and Minuet from Ravel’s Tomb of Couperin, etc.

Recalling further the conspicuous features of Zak’s pianism, one cannot but say about the invariably high volitional intensity, the internal electrification of his playing. As an example, we can cite the artist’s well-known performance of Rakhmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini: as if an elastically vibrating steel bar, tensely arched by strong, muscular hands … In principle, Zach, as an artist, was not characterized by states of pampered romantic relaxation; languid contemplation, sound “nirvana” – not his poetic role. It is paradoxical, but true: for all the Faustian philosophy of his mind, he most fully and brightly revealed himself in action – in musical dynamics, not musical statics. The energy of thought, multiplied by the energy of an active, scantly clear musical movement — this is how one could define, for example, his interpretations of Sarcasms, a series of Fleeting, Prokofiev’s Second, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Sonatas, Rachmaninov’s Fourth Concerto, Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum from Debussy’s Children’s Corner.

It is no coincidence that the pianist has always been attracted to the element of piano toccato. He liked the expression of instrumental motor skills, the heady sensations of “steel lope” in performance, the magic of swift, stubbornly springy rhythms. That is why, apparently, among his greatest successes as an interpreter were the Toccata (from The Tomb of Couperin), and Ravel’s concerto in G major, and the previously mentioned Prokofiev opuses, and much from Beethoven, Medtner, Rachmaninoff.

And another characteristic feature of Zak’s works is their picturesqueness, generous multicolor of colors, exquisite coloring. Already in his youth, the pianist proved himself to be an outstanding master in terms of sound representation, various kinds of piano-decorative effects. Commenting on his interpretation of Liszt’s sonata “After reading Dante” (this opus had featured in the performer’s programs since the pre-war years), A. Alschwang did not accidentally emphasize the “picture” of Zak’s playing: “By the strength of the impression created,” he admired, “I Zaka reminds us of the artistic reproduction of the images of Dante by the French artist Delacroix … ” (Alshwang A. Soviet schools of pianism. P. 68.). Over time, the artist’s sound perceptions became even more complex and differentiated, even more diverse and refined colors sparkled on his timbre palette. They gave special charm to such numbers of his concert repertoire as “Children’s Scenes” by Schumann and Sonatina Ravel, “Burlesque” by R. Strauss and Scriabin’s Third Sonata, Medtner’s Second Concerto and “Variations on a Theme of Corelli” by Rachmaninoff.

One thing can be added to what has been said: everything that Zack did at the instrument’s keyboard was, as a rule, characterized by complete and unconditional completeness, structural completeness. Never anything “worked” hastily, in a hurry, without due attention to the exterior! A musician of uncompromising artistic exactingness, he would never allow himself to submit a performance sketch to the public; each of the sound canvases that he demonstrated from the stage was executed with its inherent accuracy and scrupulous thoroughness. Perhaps not all of these paintings bore the stamp of high artistic inspiration: Zach happened to be overly balanced, and overly rational, and (at times) busily rationalistic. However, no matter what mood the concert player approached the piano, he was almost always sinless in his professional pianistic skills. He could be “on the beat” or not; he could not be incorrect in the technical design of his ideas. Liszt once dropped: “It is not enough to do, we must complete“. Not always and not everyone is on the shoulder. As for Zach, he belonged to the musicians who know how and love to finish everything – down to the most intimate details – in the performing arts. (On occasion, Zak liked to recall Stanislavsky’s famous statement: “Any “somehow”, “in general”, “approximately” is unacceptable in art … ” (Stanislavsky K.S. Sobr. soch.-M., 1954. T 2. S. 81.). So was his own performing creed.)

Everything that has just been said – the artist’s vast experience and wisdom, the intellectual sharpness of his artistic thinking, the discipline of emotions, the clever creative prudence – took shape in the aggregate into that classical type of performing musician (highly cultured, seasoned, “respectable” …), for whom there is nothing more important in his activity than the embodiment of the will of the author, and there is nothing more shocking than disobedience to it. Neuhaus, who perfectly knew the artistic nature of his student, did not accidentally write about Zak’s “a certain spirit of higher objectivity, an exceptional ability to perceive and convey art “essentially”, without introducing too much of his own, personal, subjective … Artists such as Zak, Neuhaus continued, “not impersonal, but rather superpersonal”, in their performance “Mendelssohn is Mendelssohn, Brahms is Brahms, Prokofiev is Prokofiev. Personality (artist – Mr. C.) … as something clearly distinguishable from the author, recedes; you perceive the composer as if through a huge magnifying glass (here it is, mastery!), but absolutely pure, not clouded in any way, not stained – glass, which is used in telescopes for observations of celestial bodies … ” (Neigauz G. Creativity of a pianist // Outstanding pianists-teachers about piano art. – M .; L., 1966. P. 79.).

…For all the intensity of Zach’s concert performance practice, for all its significance, it reflected only one side of his creative life. Another, no less significant, belonged to pedagogy, which in the sixties and early seventies reached its highest flowering.

Zach has been teaching for a long time. After graduating, he initially assisted his professor, Neuhaus; a little later he was entrusted with his own class. More than four decades of “through” teaching experience… Dozens of students, among whom are the owners of sonorous pianistic names – E. Virsaladze, N. Petrov, E. Mogilevsky, G. Mirvis, L. Timofeeva, S. Navasardyan, V. Bakk… In contrast to Zak never belonged to other fellow concert performers, so to speak, “part-time”, he never considered pedagogy as a matter of secondary importance, with which pauses between tours are filled. He loved the work in the classroom, generously invested in it all the strength of his mind and soul. While teaching, he did not stop thinking, searching, discovering; his pedagogical thought did not cool down with time. We can say that in the end he developed a harmonious, harmoniously ordered system (he was generally not inclined to unsystematic) musical and didactic views, principles, beliefs.

The main, strategic goal of a pianist teacher, Yakov Izrailevich believed, is to lead the student to an understanding of music (and its interpretation) as a reflection of the complex processes of a person’s inner spiritual life. “… Not a kaleidoscope of beautiful pianistic forms,” he insistently explained to the youth, “not just fast and precise passages, elegant instrumental “fiortures” and the like. No, the essence is something else – in images, feelings, thoughts, moods, psychological states … ”Like his teacher, Neuhaus, Zak was convinced that“ in the art of sound … everything, without exception, that can experience, survive, think through, is embodied and expressed and feel the person (Neigauz G. On the art of piano playing. – M., 1958. P. 34.). From these positions, he taught his pupils to consider the “art of sound”.

Awareness of a young artist spiritual The essence of performance is possible only then, Zak argued further, when he has reached a sufficiently high level of musical, aesthetic and general intellectual development. When the foundation of his professional knowledge is solid and solid, his horizons are broad, artistic thinking is basically formed, and creative experience is accumulated. These tasks, Zak believed, were from the category of key ones in musical pedagogy in general, and piano pedagogy in particular. How were they resolved in his own practice?

First of all, through the introduction of students to the largest possible number of studied works. Through the contact of each of the pupils of his class with the widest possible range of diverse musical phenomena. The trouble is that many young performers are “extremely closed … in the circle of the notorious “piano life,” Zak regretted. “How often their ideas about music are meager! [We need] to think about how to restructure the work in the classroom in order to open up a wide panorama of musical life for our students … because without this, a truly profound development of a musician is impossible. (Zak Ya. On some issues of educating young pianists // Questions of piano performance. – M., 1968. Issue 2. P. 84, 87.). In the circle of his colleagues, he never tired of repeating: “Each musician should have his own “storehouse of knowledge”, his precious accumulations of what he heard, performed, and experienced. These accumulations are like an accumulator of energy that feeds the creative imagination, which is necessary for constant movement forward. (Ibid., pp. 84, 87.).

Отсюда — установка Зака на возможно более интенсивный и широкий приток музыки в учебно-педагогический обиход его воспитанников. Так, наряду с обязательным репертуаром, в его классе нередко проходились и пьесы-спутники; они служили чем-то вроде вспомогательного материала, овладение которым, считал Зак, желательно, а то и просто необходимо для художественно полноценной интерпретации основной части студенческих программ. «Произведения одного и того же автора соединены обычно множеством внутренних «уз»,— говорил Яков Израилевич.— Нельзя по-настоящему хорошо исполнить какое-либо из этих произведений, не зная, по крайней мере, „близлежащих…»»

The development of musical consciousness, which distinguished Zach’s pupils, was explained, however, not only by the fact that in the educational laboratory, led by their professor, much. It was also important as works were held here. The very style of Zak’s teaching, his pedagogical manner stimulated the constant and rapid replenishment of the artistic and intellectual potential of young pianists. An important place within this style belonged, for example, to the reception generalizations (almost the most important thing in teaching music – subject to its qualified application). Particular, singularly concrete in piano performance – that from which the real fabric of the lesson was woven (sound, rhythm, dynamics, form, genre specificity, etc.), was usually used by Yakov Izrailevich as a reason for deriving broad and capacious concepts related to various categories of musical art. Hence the result: in the experience of live pianistic practice, his students imperceptibly, by themselves, forged deep and versatile knowledge. Studying with Zach meant thinking: analyzing, comparing, contrasting, coming to certain conclusions. “Listen to these “moving” harmonic figurations (the opening bars of Ravel’s concerto in G-major.— Mr. C.), he turned to the student. “Isn’t it true how colorful and piquant these tartly dissonant second overtones are! By the way, what do you know about the harmonic language of late Ravel? Well, what if I ask you to compare the harmonies of, say, Reflections and The Tomb of Couperin?

The students of Yakov Izrailevich knew that in his lessons at any moment one could expect contact with the world of literature, theater, poetry, painting … A man of encyclopedic knowledge, an outstanding erudite in many areas of culture, Zak, in the process of classes, willingly and skillfully used excursions to neighboring areas of art : illustrated in this way all sorts of musical and performing ideas, reinforced with references to poetic, pictorial and other analogues of his intimate pedagogical ideas, attitudes and plans. “The aesthetics of one art is the aesthetics of another, only the material is different,” Schumann once wrote; Zach said that he was repeatedly convinced of the truth of these words.

Solving more local piano-pedagogical tasks, Zak singled out from them the one that he considered of primary importance: “The main thing for me is to educate a student in a professionally refined, “crystal” musical ear …” Such an ear, he developed his idea, which would be in able to capture the most complex, diverse metamorphoses in sound processes, to distinguish the most ephemeral, exquisite colorful and coloristic nuances and glare. A young performer does not have such acuity of auditory sensations, it will be futile – Yakov Izrailevich was convinced of this – any tricks of the teacher, neither pedagogical “cosmetics” nor “gloss” will help the cause. In a word, “the ear is for the pianist what the eye is for the artist…” (Zak Ya. On some issues of education of young pianists. P. 90.).

How did Zak’s disciples practically develop all these qualities and properties? There was only one way: before the player, such sound tasks were put forward that could not have attracted behind the maximum strain of their auditory resources, would be insoluble on the keyboard outside the finely differentiated, refined musical hearing. An excellent psychologist, Zak knew that a person’s abilities are formed in the depths of that activity, which from all over necessity requires these abilities – just them, and nothing else. What he sought from students in his lessons simply could not be achieved without an active and sensitive musical “ear”; this was one of the tricks of his pedagogy, one of the reasons for its effectiveness. As for the specific, “working” methods of developing hearing among pianists, Yakov Izrailevich considered it extremely useful to learn a piece of music without an instrument, by the method of intra-auditory representations, as they say, “in the imagination.” He often used this principle in his own performing practice, and advised his students to apply it as well.

After the image of the interpreted work was formed in the student’s mind, Zak considered it good to release this student from further pedagogical care. “If, persistently stimulating the growth of our pets, we are present as a constant obsessive shadow in their performance, this is already enough to make them look like each other, to bring everyone to a bleak “common denominator”” (Zak Ya. On some issues of education of young pianists. P. 82.). To be able in time – not earlier, but not later (the second is almost more important) – to move away from the student, leaving him to himself, is one of the most delicate and difficult moments in the profession of a music teacher, Zak believed. From him one could often hear the words of Arthur Schnabel: “The role of the teacher is to open doors, and not to push students through them.”

Wise with vast professional experience, Zak, not without criticism, assessed individual phenomena of his contemporary performing life. Too many competitions, all kinds of musical competitions, he complained. For a significant part of novice artists, they are “a corridor of purely sports tests” (Zak Ya. Performers ask for words // Sov. music. 1957. No. 3. P 58.). In his opinion, the number of winners of international competitive battles has grown exorbitantly: “A lot of ranks, titles, regalia have appeared in the musical world. Unfortunately, this did not increase the number of talents.” (Ibid.). The threat to the concert scene from an ordinary performer, an average musician, is becoming more and more real, Zach said. This worried him almost more than anything else: “Increasingly,” he worried, “a certain “similarity” of pianists began to appear, their, even if high, but a kind of“ creative standard ”… Victories in competitions, with which the calendars of recent years are so oversaturated , apparently entail the primacy of skill over creative imagination. Isn’t that where the “similarity” of our laureates comes from? What else to look for the reason? (Zak Ya. On some issues of education of young pianists. P. 82.). Yakov Izrailevich was also worried that some debutants of today’s concert scene seemed to him deprived of the most important thing – high artistic ideals. Deprived, therefore, of the moral and ethical right to be an artist. The pianist-performer, like any of his colleagues in the art, “must have creative passions,” Zak emphasized.

And we have such young musicians who entered life with great artistic aspirations. It’s reassuring. But, unfortunately, we have quite a few musicians who do not even have a hint of creative ideals. They don’t even think about it. They live differently (Zak Ya. Performers ask for words. S. 58.).

In one of his press appearances, Zach said: “What in other areas of life is known as “careerism” is called “laureatism” in performance” (Ibid.). From time to time he started a conversation on this subject with artistic youth. Once, on occasion, he quoted Blok’s proud words in the class:

The poet has no career The poet has a destiny…

G. Tsypin

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