Alexander Knaifel, composer

Alexander Knaifel

“Alexander Knaifel’s music stands as one of the most important revelations of the recent years.”-Frankfurter Rundschau

“In his way of seeing and interpreting the world, in his compositions, a musician and philosopher Alexander Knaifel provides the cultural and spiritual unity that distinguishes the greatest individuals and artistic personalities of the 20th century. Knaifel’s interests extend over the vast cultural area and his work has no direct stylistic references, or program theme insertions, yet his work encompasses a broad range of ideas and revelations about the natural world, the Man, and his place in cosmos, spoken out in different epochs.”-Music in the USSR

 “To hear the Eternal in fleeting moments, the sublime in the accidental – this is the pathos distinguishing Alexander Knaifel’s work, Music completely devoid of the pathetic, the Art unique in its essence.”-Muzykalnaya Academia

Alexander Knaifel was born on November 28th, 1943 in Tashkent, into a family of musicians. Composer’s father, Aron Knaifel, was a wonderful soloist and ensemblist. Even today, quartet music is identified by Alexander Knaifel with his dearest music – that of his childhood. Knaifel finished the Secondary Musical School of Leningrad Conservatory in 1961, where he had been a student of E. Fishman’s class of cello. The next two years (1961-1963), Knaifel was Mstislav Rostropovich’s student at Moscow Conservatory.

However, Knaifel’s future would follow a different path – he turned to composition. On his return to Leningrad, the city he always misses so much, Knaifel entered the Conservatory, Boris Arapov’s class. His vocation revealed itself within a short period: the twenty-two-year-old student wrote the opera Canterville Ghost that was staged by the Opera Studio of Leningrad Conservatory in good time and was a success. That year was particularly fortunate for composer: he married singer Tatiana Melentieva on 31 December. And in January 1967, the year of his graduation from Conservatory, their daughter Anna was born.

Knaifel’s start was vigorous, impetuous and extraordinarily enthusiastic. His early compositions won him a reputation as a fervent avant-gardist. Since early 1970ѕ, composer has written much music for film. He has composed music for more than 40 feature and “feature-chronicle” films, including 10 films by the well-known Russian film director Semion Aranovich.

Composer was fortunate to meet other outstanding masters. Spiritual relation with Mstislav Rostropovich has been maintained forever. The world-wide known musician put up his inspiration for the world’s premiere of Chapter Eight – canticum canticorum for church, choirs and cello (1993), Psalm 51 (50) (1995) and The Beatitudes (1996).

In collaboration with the great ballet-master Leonid Yakobson, Mr. Knaifel wrote music for several ballets: The Penitent Magdalene, a choreographic scene on themes of Titian and Rodin (1967); and Disarmamen”, a choreographic strip-tease based on Bidstrup’s cartoons (1966). Their last project, Hamlet, remained uncompleted.

The Penitent Magdalene and Monody (for female voice, 1968) were embodied in dance by the legendary Kirov ballerina Kaleria Fedicheva.

Eminent conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky was the first to conduct the romantic scenes The Canterville Ghost (BBC, London, 1980), and the choreographic symphony Medea (Leningrad, 1984).

Among his few interpretations of contemporary music, outstanding Frans Brьggen has one interpreting Alexander Knaifel’s composition Once Again on the Hypothesis (in dialogue with a prelude and fugue by J. S. Bach; Holland Festival premiere, 1994).

For prominent singer Tatiana Melentieva Alexander Knaifel wrote A Silly Horse, 15 tales for singer (female) and pianist (male)(1981); Through the Rainbow of Involuntary Tears, trio for singer (female) and violoncellist (male) (1987-1988); Svete Tikhiy (O Gladsome Light), The Song of the Most Holy Theotokos for Tatiana Melentieva (1991); and Butterfly, based on the Joseph Brodsky’s poems (1993), Amicta sole for soloist (female) of soloists (1995) and Bliss, Pushkin’ѕ poem (1997).

Composer was influenced by deep spirituality of several most original masters of Russian art – his close friend poet Sergei Vakoulenko (1939 – 1997), theatre producer Boris Ponizovsky (1930 – 1994) and painter Yevgeny Mikhnov-Voitenko (1932 – 1988).

Among the composer’ѕ friends are conductor Arkady Shteinlukht, pianist Oleg Malov, violoncellists Ivan Monigetti, Boris Pergamenschikov, Thomas and Patrick Demenga, percussionists Mark Pekarsky and Mircea Ardeleanu, performer of jazz and early music Gennady Golshtein, composers Valentine Silvestrov, Arvo Pдrt, Giya Kancheli, Edison Denisov, Tigran Mansurian, Sofia Gubaidulina.

Alexander Knaifel is the author of more than 80 compositions in every field of music. Almost all of them are of non-traditionally-established genres. World premieres of his compositions took place at numerous important music festivals in Paris, London, Amsterdam, New-York, Zurich, Salzburg, Berlin, Cologne, Mahstricht, Ferrara. The first monographic festival of his music took place in Frankfort on the Main in 1992. In 1993-1994 he worked in Berlin as the first Russian musician awarded the DAAD prize (German Academic Exchange Department).

Music composed by Alexander Knaifel was broadcasted by Radio of Russia, BBC (UK), Voice of America and National Public Radio (USA), Radio France (France), Deutschlandfunk and WDR (Germany), KRO (the Netherlands). Mr. Knaifel released his compositions at Megadisc Classics, Teldec Classics International, ECM New Series.

Alexander Knaifel has been a member of the Composers’ Union since 1968 and the Film-makers’ Union since 1987. Freelance composer, Honored Master of Art of Russia, he lives and works in St. Petersburg.

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