Vladimir Shcherbachev

Vladimir Shcherbachev - Nonett op.10

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Voc.(Sopr.) Fl. Hrp. Pno. Str.5
UE Archiv Nr.9380
This composition has been played by the Ebony Band

The Nonet op.10, a piece with a notorious reputation in Soviet music, was first staged at the 'Petrograd Popular Traveling Theater' on May 17, 1919. About the performance of the Nonet little is known. Perhaps a dancer or actor was involved, but there is no mention of a mime artist in the score and therefore no clue as to the sort of movements that were required. The vocal part (the 'ninth' instrument) is wordless and the choice of vowel is apparently left to the singer. Since there are no score indications, we have to depend on contemporary descriptions to visualize performances of this piece in its theatrical form.
N.M.Strel'nikov describes how the work began and ended in total darkness, to the sound of the barely heard string harmonics. The intensity of the play of lights seemed to parallel to some extent the musical development of germinal ideas. Curtains of gauze-like material were used, opening and closing at the start and conclusion, lit by a grey-green effect. There is little information about the "plastic movement", but it seems that a solo dancer was employed and that the motions were not constant or energetic, but rather tended toward static poses and slow changes between the poses. This combination of light, movement, voice and instrumental music was undoubtedly a child of its time and a legitimate descendant of Skriabinesque notions and, in the end, possibly the reason why Shcherbachev published the score as a concert work (as late as 1930), retaining the title of Nonet, but excising all references to stage actions and lighting. The work can be done both ways. Strel'nikov complained that the accord between light, movement and music did not always function satisfactorily. 
The Nonet embodies some of Shcherbachev's strongest and most characteristic traits: constant linear development, form as an organic process, avoidance of repetition and symmetrical structures and free polyphony.


Larry Sitsky : Music of the Repressed Russian Avant-Garde, 1900-1929
                     Greenwood Press, 1994