Orchestra 'without a conductor' revived in Moscow
The genre of orchestra without a conductor will be revived in Moscow this week. The trend for musicians to play without the guidance of a conductor, feeding off their own energy and drive, started in Communist Russia back in 1920s. An orchestra without conductor was viewed as a more democratic, less authoritative way of expression in the post-tsarist Russia. Today, best Russian musicians are coming together to revive the genre in a series of performances in Moscow. Many are wondering if there is message behind the revival of this unusual freedom-endorsing form of art.
It was the ultimate Soviet project -- Russia's best musicians assembled in an orchestra, all without a conductor.
Formed in 1922, Persimfans -- a Sovietized shorthand for Perviy Simfonichesky Ansambl, or First Symphony Ensemble -- sought to embody the avant-garde spirit of the time.
"Just as the government didn't need a tsar, so the orchestra didn't need a director," says Pyotr Aidu of the School of Dramatic Art, which will revive the long-dead form at a premiere concert Thursday. The orchestra, counting among its ranks musicians from the Bolshoi Theatre and Moscow Conservatory, performed for a decade as the Soviet experiment allowed revolutionary artists to flourish.
It will seek to come back today as Aidu gathers 35 musicians to take to the stage at the School of Dramatic Art in a revival of the 1920s art form.
Sergei Prokofiev's "Trapeze," a ballet, as well as the overture from Mozart's "Magic Flute" are on the program, alongside renditions of "The Internationale" and the "Warszawianka," two revolutionary songs played at every Persimfans performance.
The orchestra without a director -- also known at the time as a "noisy orchestra" -- took that to new levels. The ensemble would practice just like any orchestra but take to the stage alone, feeding off their own energy to drive the music forward.
"Just like a government, an orchestra can be governed in two ways -- in a totalitarian way or in a democratic way."
Is the performance a commentary on Russia's current state?
"I don't really know," Aidu says. "My life is art, not politics."