Alexander Veprik (1899-1958)

 

Composer, educator, one of the greatest representative of the Jewish school


In the 1920s Alexander Weprik was considered the great hope of Jewish music. Stylistically his works are hard to categorize. His style is too independent, too unmistakable, it comes from the ancient Jewish music tradition and yet belongs entirely to the 20th century. In March 1933 Arturo Toscanini conducted his "Dances and Songs of the Ghetto" in New York Carnegie Hall.

Biography (click to view...)

Alexander Moiseevich Veprik was born on June 23, 1899 in Balta near Odessa. His first teachers were students of the Warsaw Conservatory, who taught him and his sister Anna at home.
Fleeing from pogroms in the south of Russia, the Veprik's family moved to Leipzig. Alexandra and Anna were admitted to the Leipzig Conservatory in the piano class of the famous Professor Wendling. In 1914, the brother and sister successfully graduated from the conservatory, but the outbreak of war forced their family, who had Russian citizenship, to evacuate from Germany to Russia. Together with the entire Russian colony of Leipzig, they ended up in Petrograd.

In 1918 Veprik was admitted to the Petrograd Conservatory at the composition faculty in the class of Alexander Matveyevich Zhitomirsky, a student of N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov. In 1921 Veprik moved to Moscow and continued his studies in composition with N.Ya. Myaskovsky, and from 1923 he began teaching at the Moscow Conservatory. A. Veprik's compositions were performed especially often in the Soviet Union and in the West. His composer's authority was very high. Starting in the mid 1920s, Weprik's works became well-known internationally. It was especially in Germany that he was one of the Russian composers most often played. Weprik's "Songs of the Dead" belong to the very early broadcasts of the Berlin Broadcasting Company.

In 1927 Veprik was sent to Germany, Austria and France to study the method of music teaching. He met Arnold Schoenberg, Paul Hindemith, Maurice Ravel, Arthur Honegger, and Toscanini. On the instructions of Lunacharsky, Veprik invited famous musicians to visit the Soviet Union. Veprik writes on September 15, 1927 from Vienna: “I met today with Schoenberg. Made a very strong impression. I can't write about him now - let it settle down a little. Excited. " In his report on his return from an overseas business trip, published in 1928 in the journal "Musical Education" No. 1, Veprik comes to the conclusion that “Schoenberg is undoubtedly one of the most interesting musicians of our time, who had a tremendous influence on all contemporary Western Europe, including Stravinsky and Ravel ".

In the season 1928/29 alone, nearly his entire oeuvre was performed by the Berlin Radio Symphony. His music became well known in Europe and the United States. In March 1933 Arturo Toscanini conducted Weprik's "Dances and Songs of the Ghetto" in Carnegie Hall, New York.

After the February Resolution of the Central Committee of 1948, which branded such composers as Dmitry Shostakovich, Vissarion Shebalin, Aram Khachaturyan, Sergei Prokofiev with the label of "formalists", they were temporarily removed from their leading positions. Instead of them, second-tier composers or very young musicians were recruited to work in the Union. Veprik was included in the apparatus of the Union of Composers in the symphony section.

On the night of November 19-20, 1950, Veprik was arrested on a denunciation in connection with the opera "Toktogul", which he composed for the Kyrgyz state theater. The investigator argued that the opera is not based on Kyrgyz melodies, but is "Zionist music." In April 1951, Veprik was sentenced by a special tribunal under Article 58/10 of the Criminal Code to eight years in labor camps on charges of listening to foreign radio broadcasts, publishing a letter from Toscanini abroad (in the late 1920s, in response to an invitation to tour in the Soviet Union, an open A. Toscanini's letter to Veprik, where Toscanini stated that he did not visit dictatorships - totalitarian states), storage of anti-Soviet works (during the search a volume of poems by Akhmatova and the Bolshevik magazine with an article by Karl Radek were found).

Three years later, a year after Stalin's death, his case is being reviewed and he is found not guilty. In September 1954, sick and exhausted, he returned to Moscow, and on October 13, 1958, he died, not having time to complete many of his plans.

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